The GuardianThe Guardian

TikTok: How the West has turned on Gen Z’s favorite app

By Laurie Clarke

05 Feb 2023 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

Politicians in Europe and the U.S. claim that TikTok poses a security threat and are calling for an urgent overhaul of data privacy laws. Are their concerns justified? The Guardian investigates.

The FBI has called it a national security threat. The US government has passed a law forcing officials to delete it from their phones. Texas senator Ted Cruz has denounced it as “a Trojan horse the Chinese Communist party can use to influence what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think”. And in March its CEO will defend its existence before the US Congress. For those unaware of the debate broiling on the other side of the Atlantic, the target of this strong rhetoric might prove surprising: an app best known for viral dances, launching generation Z media stars, and sucking teens down an hours-long content abyss.

But the rancorous debate over TikTok that began under the Trump administration has rolled on under President Biden. In addition to a ban of the app on all federal government devices, at least 27 states have blocked TikTok on devices they’ve issued, affecting a number of state schools and universities, too. A bipartisan bill, introduced in Congress last December, stipulates banning the app’s use by everyone in the United States.

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