New York City today joined a number of states and government agencies in the U.S. by putting its foot down and banning the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok.
Starting today, employees of the city are asked to delete the app and not use it. All agencies are required to have removed it within the next 30 days. That will mean some very popular city accounts will no longer be available, including the account of the city’s Department of Sanitation, which has accrued 50,000 followers.
“While social media is great at connecting New Yorkers with one another and the city, we have to ensure we are always using these platforms in a secure manner,” City Hall spokesperson Jonah Allon said in a statement. He explained that NYC Cyber Command had determined that the app posed “a security threat to the city’s technical networks.”
Despite TikTok’s many efforts to convince the U.S. that the app is not a virtual spying machine for the Chinese Communist Party, slowly but surely it has been disappearing from government devices all over the country. It’s currently banned in 30 states, including New York State, which got rid of it around two years ago. This has been going on since 2020 when the Trump administration tried and failed to ban TikTok from the whole of the U.S.
The concern isn’t just in the U.S. Earlier this year, the European Commission banned TikTok from all corporate and personal devices, again citing security concerns.
The banning fever has also caught on in Canada and countries in Europe, while the Biden administration has ordered TikTok’s owner ByteDance Ltd. to sell its U.S. operations or face getting kicked out of the U.S. completely. Whether an American politician would dare do that so close to an election is another matter, considering TikTok’s 150 million U.S. users, many of whom make a living from the app.
The threats might well be all bark and no bite. It’s also noteworthy that there’s so far no evidence to state that TikTok actually is a spying accessory for the Chinese. It’s unlikely it will be wiped from every American smartphone over what seems to be a hunch.
Just last month, professors at New York’s Columbia University issued a lawsuit over the bans, saying such activity is unconstitutional under the First Amendment and impinges on academic freedom. TikTok itself began a lawsuit recently over Montana’s decision to ban the app across the entire state starting next year.
Photo: Jenny Marvin/Unsplash
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