TikTok faces backlash from Left and Right-wing US politicians over Chinese ownership
TikTok is under increasing pressure from the Left and Right wings of US politics amid growing concern about the video app’s Chinese ownership.
Campaign group Eko warned on Tuesday that the video app exposes teens to content glorifying suicide, drugs and incels – the so-called “involuntarily celibate” online movement of misogynistic young men.
TikTok has more than a billion monthly users, making it one of the world’s most popular social media apps.
Eko’s research found that a test account registered as a 13-year-old user was served videos promoting self-harm and explicit content about drugs and online misogyny within 10 minutes of signing up.
“Right now, multiple states are debating or considering introducing specific age-appropriate laws to protect young people online,” said a spokesman for Eko, which until recently was known as SumOfUs.
The organisation is best known for campaigning on workers' rights and environmental issues.
Opposition to TikTok from across the political spectrum on both sides of the Atlantic continues to grow.
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Donald Trump appointee, drew attention to a report which claims TikTok “can no longer be accurately described as a private enterprise”.
Co-authored by John Garnaut, an aide to former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, the 113-page parliamentary submission details how China’s ruling Communist Party holds all the cards within TikTok parent company ByteDance.
“The Chinese Community Party commenced a program of co-option, infiltration, and legal and extra-legal coercion,” said Mr Garnaut’s report.
“In our view, ByteDance should not be understood as a ‘hybrid’ state-private entity.”
TikTok’s own filings to the same Australian inquiry acknowledged the company’s Chinese origins, saying: “We are proud of our heritage, and it’s important to note that we operate no differently to other global companies and claims to the contrary are unsubstantiated by evidence.”
A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Political pressure against TikTok is building around the world thanks to several governments banning the app from public sector-owned devices.
In February two US senators, Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Jerry Moran, urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to “impose strict structural restrictions” between TikTok's US operations and ByteDance, including potentially ordering a divestment of the video app by its Chinese parent.
The British Government banned TikTok on official phones and tablets last week, following in the footsteps of Canada, India and the European Union.
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is due to testify to the US Congress on Thursday.
Reports on Monday suggested he will tell lawmakers that the app has around 150m users in the US alone.