India just banned its citizens from accessing TikTok, CamScanner, WeChat, and 56 other popular Chinese apps last month, and it looks like the practice is already drawing international interest. In an interview with Fox News, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US government is "looking at" imposing a ban on Chinese social media apps like TikTok. The comment follows further international isolation of China and companies based in the country, as the UK is now also looking into restricting Huawei from working on its internet infrastructure.
When confronted with the Indian TikTok ban and asked if the US would do the same for the network and other Chinese social media apps, Mike Pompeo said, "We are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it." Mentioning the preceding Huawei and ZTE bans, he said that "We have worked on this very issue for a long time," continuing, "With respect to Chinese apps on people's cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too," though he would not go into specifics as to "not get ahead of the President."
In a statement to CNBC, a TikTok spokesperson said in reaction to Pompeo's interview,
TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.
According to CNBC, TikTok previously already said that US user data isn't stored or processed on Chinese servers. In the country, the company behind TikTok runs a separate version of the social network called Douyin, which is subject to Chinese censorship restrictions. The international version of the social media platform only rose to success after merging with Musical.ly, the US-based lip-sync service, back in 2018.
Without India and the US, TikTok might face hardship — the two markets are currently the most important ones for developers and manufacturers wanting to grow internationally. It's unclear if the company can continue its rapid expansion if the US pulls through with the ban.