US President Donald Trump intends to ban the Chinese short video service TikTok in the country.

“As for TikTok, we will ban it in the United States,” The Hill newspaper quoted Trump as saying.

Earlier, the United States Senate Committee on National Security and Government Affairs approved the Republican Josh Hawley's law banning the use of TikTok by American government officials on devices issued to them by their employer. It is expected that the document will soon be adopted by the upper house of the Congress.

TikTok is a product of the Chinese holding company ByteDance. TikTok has offices in major cities around the world, including New York and Los Angeles. According to Reuters, TikTok's market value is estimated at approximately $ 50 billion.

The entertainment application brings together hundreds of millions of users around the world. In the United States, the number of active TikTok users reaches 80 million.

A string of accusations

United States officials regularly file complaints against TikTok, suspecting the social network of working for the Chinese government and intelligence. The activity of the application is said to pose a threat to US national security.

For example, last October, Republican and Democratic senators Tim Cotton and Chuck Schumer, in a letter to Joseph Maguire, then acting director of National Intelligence, called for an assessment of the risks associated with TikTok.

The congressmen said that the social network collects personal data of Americans and this information can allegedly be transferred to the state and security agencies of the PRC upon request. Senators also do not rule out that the TikTok administration is censoring materials that are "politically sensitive" for the Chinese Communist Party.

Cotton and Schumer are confident that the app could be used in foreign influence campaigns, such as the alleged "interference" in the 2016 US presidential election. At the end of July this year, the same senators again made a similar appeal to Maguire.

Earlier, the US authorities fined TikTok $ 5.7 million for collecting data on American children under 13, which, from their point of view, was illegal. The service is currently being reviewed by the United States Foreign Investment Committee (CFIUS) for potential national security risks.

On July 29, US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin announced that his department will develop recommendations for the head of the White House on TikTok policy by the end of the week.

The State Department is very categorical about the activities of the social network. In early July, on Fox News, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when asked about a possible ban on Chinese applications, including TikTok, said that the authorities were ready to take measures to protect information about citizens.

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • Reuters
  • © Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool

The TikTok administration, in turn, has repeatedly denied Washington's accusations. So, on July 29, the CEO of the company Kevin Mayer said that the activities of the social network are outside of politics. TikTok remains a safe platform for tens of millions of American families, he said.

Mayer also said that the company plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the United States through business development. At the same time, the top manager pointed to unfair competition from Facebook.

In 2019, the social network launched the Reels app, linked to Instagram. This service duplicates the options that are available in TikTok, representing, in fact, its American counterpart. Mayer believes that Facebook is trying to play on the patriotic feelings of US citizens and subsequently oust TikTok from the country.

"The End of the Free Internet"

According to analysts asked by RT, one of the most likely real reasons for the impending ban on the entertainment social network is the rapid deterioration of interstate relations with China, against which Washington regularly introduces new restrictive measures. 

In early July, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Sino-American relations were going through the worst crisis since 1979. According to him, Beijing has no intention of throwing down a geopolitical challenge to the United States and getting involved in a full-scale confrontation. The diplomat recommended Washington to take a more rational and pragmatic approach to the PRC.

However, the US continued to increase pressure on Beijing. So, in the second half of July, under the pretext of accusations of espionage, the American authorities closed the Chinese diplomatic mission in Houston. In response, the PRC liquidated the United States Consulate General in Chengdu.

According to Pavel Feldman, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts of the RUDN University, the campaign against TikTok is part of the White House's anti-Chinese strategy. The expert predicts that Washington will either really completely ban this service, or find a way to put its operation in the United States under the control of the authorities.  

According to Reuters, Trump's announcement of his intention to close TikTok in the United States was preceded by negotiations between the White House, ByteDance and potential buyers, including Microsoft. However, the terms of the deal have not yet been agreed.

“The United States makes it clear that all social networks on its territory must be under the control of the authorities. Americans fear for personal information and are afraid of interference in elections, but following this logic, they need to prohibit other large services that collect user data and can spread “wrong” ideas and values, ”says Feldman.

From the expert's point of view, Washington's pressure on TikTok can be dictated, among other things, by a kind of envy - the product of the Chinese ByteDance became the first non-American platform, extremely popular in the United States. In other countries, according to Feldman, TikTok competes on equal terms with overseas giants such as YouTube, Google and Facebook.

  • White House
  • Reuters
  • © Erin Scott

“The campaign against TikTok is also a US effort to reclaim its lost global monopoly on social media. Americans are annoyed by the success of TikTok, which, moreover, is mainly aimed at young people, ”Feldman explained.

In a commentary on RT, Dmitry Abzalov, a leading expert in the analytical department of the Center for Current Politics, also saw an ideological, political and commercial motive in the "war with TikTok". According to him, the United States is making great efforts to prevent the growth of the popularity of the service both domestically and in other countries.

“The ban on TikTok will be a symbolic act of the end of the free Internet in the United States, although the situation with it has not been very good before. The company is actually being persecuted for being Chinese. Thus, for the sake of toughening the anti-Chinese course, the American authorities ignore the elementary democratic freedoms that they allegedly defend, ”Abzalov concluded.