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TikTok publishes new website to defend itself against Trump’s accusations as US ban looms

'The Last Sunny Corner of the Internet' defends TikTok's efforts to stay in the United States

Adam Smith
Tuesday 18 August 2020 09:43 BST
Chinese Foreign Ministry comments on US plans to ban TikTok and WeChat

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Louise Thomas

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Viral video app TikTok has published “The Last Sunny Corner of the Internet” – a website where it defends itself against the accusations of the Trump administration.

“With rumours and misinformation about TikTok proliferating in Washington and in the media, let us set the record straight,” TikTok said on the website.

TikTok faces a potential ban in the United States due to national security concerns stemming from its Chinese parent company, Bytedance, and its relationship with the Chinese government.

The Trump administration believes that TikTok, and other Chinese apps such as WeChat, could potentially pass on information about US citizens to Beijing.

TikTok’s new website references its previous messages, emphasising that it believes the executive order could be illegal.

“TikTok is not available in China. Its US user data is stored in Virginia with a back-up in Singapore and strict controls on employee access. TikTok has never provided any US user data to the Chinese government, nor would it do so if asked. Any insinuation to the contrary is unfounded and blatantly false”, the new website reads.

It also highlights reporting from other publications to emphasise its security, such as a recent article from The New York Times that says the CIA found no evidence that Chinese intelligence agencies are using TikTok to intercept data from US citizens.

Tiktok’s transparency report shows that the Chinese government has not asked TikTok to remove any content on its behalf; instead, the US and Indian governments have made the greatest number of legal requests for content to be removed.

TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese apps, is banned in India. The Indian government cites similar concerns to the US government, but has also been engaged in a border conflict with China.

However, TikTok’s claim that it does not remove content at the behest of the Chinese government is mitigated by the fact that TikTok does not operate in China. Instead, Bytedance operates Douyin – a TikTok clone – in the country.

When asked if Douyin removes content at the request of the Chinese government, or whether it published a transparency report, a Douyin spokesperson declined to comment.

Moreover, analysis of TikTok’s terms and conditions by Protonmail suggests that because TikTok reserves the right to share user information with other members of its corporate group – which includes Bytedance – that user data could then be shared with the Chinese government from its parent company.

China also has national intelligence laws which experts argue forces companies to give the Chinese government the information they request. The Independent has reached out to TikTok for clarification.

Both Microsoft and Twitter are in the running to purchase TikTok’s US operations, as president Donald Trump believes that purchase by a “very American company” would make the app more secure.

Recently the president signed up to TikTok-competitor Triller, while Facebook launched a feature for Instagram called Reels which TikTok has accused of being a clone of their app.

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