Chinese company ByteDance’s short video service TikTok has brought together representatives of the US tech sector, regardless of their stance on industry regulation and antitrust law. At the Code conference in Los Angeles a few days ago, employees of major IT companies, experts and officials expressed their concern that the platform could endanger the country’s national security.
Data from the Pew Research Center shows that TikTok is aggressively luring young users away from the company’s meta-platforms*. As of August of this year, the short video service was more popular than Instagram among American teenagers.* and Snapchat. Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic has helped the platform reach an older audience.
Against this backdrop, some IT industry figures and politicians have expressed concern about TikTok’s rapid growth, pointing out that the service could endanger the country’s national security. This position is notably held by Snap boss Evan Spiegel, who said that ByteDance is spending billions of dollars to promote its service in the US market.
“The reason it has been so difficult for companies in the US and around the world to respond is the scale of TikTok’s investment. What no one in the US expected was the level of investment ByteDance made in the US market and of course Europe, because it was something unimaginable – no startup could afford to invest billions and billions and billions of dollars, to attract users from all over the world”said Der Spiegel at the Codex conference.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai also called TikTok one of YouTube’s newest and biggest competitors. He noticed that “Competition in the technology segment is very intense,” and some of the competitors, including TikTok, have seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is leading the development of antitrust legislation in the IT industry aimed at increasing scrutiny over the activities of tech giants Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta*, warned of a possible tightening of regulation regarding TikTok. The senator representing Minnesota also confirmed the possibility of tightening regulation of TikTok in the United States. She did not rule out that measures could be taken against the Chinese service for reasons of national security. More control over TikTok, she says, will become relevant once the platform reaches the size of American IT giants.
Matthias Dopfner, CEO of Axel Springer, which owns the news agencies Insider, Politico and Protocol, criticized the short video service. He called TikTok the main competitor in the media, content and creative industries and also called for the platform to be banned.
“TikTok should be banned in every democratic country. I think it’s stupid not to do it. We cannot enter China with Facebook*, Google, Amazon and other platforms. Why should we allow them to play a dominant role in our free market economy? In the long term, we will feel the consequences of this addiction, and not only in the economy. I think there will also be political ramifications with huge repercussions.”said Döpfner.
* It is included in the list of public associations and religious organizations for which the court made a final decision to liquidate or ban activities on the grounds provided for in Federal Law No. 114-FZ of July 25. 2002 “On Countering Extremist Activities”.