TikTok’s fiercest opponents argue that it should be viewed as a dangerous Trojan horse for Chinese Communist Party espionage . On the other side are those who frame that criticism as merely thinly-veiled xenophobia, a result of rising racism toward Chinese people and deteriorating relations between the US and Beijing. In between are plenty of people who aren’t quite sure what to believe. So far, like with Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky a few years before, US officials have provided little evidence for their claims about TikTok aside from pointing to its country of origin. Absent hard proof, what’s left are more extrapolated dangers, like whether the Chinese government, which the US says was responsible for a notorious series of breaches at American institutions, would pilfer user data from TikTok, or censor content on the platform the way it tightly controls the internet within its own borders.Experts on China say that while those possibilities can’t be dismissed, blocking TikTok is a drastic measure, and one that wouldn’t necessarily solve every issue that concerns the app’s detractors. Outlawing TikTok would also mean the US would be participating in the same Chinese-style internet sovereignty tactics it has long criticized, and it’s not clear where the line might be drawn. While TikTok is likely the biggest, many other Chinese-owned apps are also used in the US, including Tencent’s WeChat . And then there are the worrisome implications of shutting down a platform tens of millions of Americans use for free expression, especially just months before a presidential election.
It wasn’t the first time this month that lawmakers have questioned the security and content moderation practices of TikTok. Two weeks ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) called for the Committee on Foreign Investment to investigate ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of , a lip-syncing app popular in the US that was later merged with TikTok. On Twitter, Rubio said he was concerned TikTok is “censoring content in line with #China’s communist government directives.”.