With about 500 million active users,
TikTok is one of the most popular mobile applications in the world, mainly among teenagers and young people.
It offers a platform for publishing short videos and for its ease of use it has become a fertile ground for the creation of memes, many of them related to music.
An example is that of TikTok users and their pets who "dressed" cowboy with an app filter to dance the theme Old Town Road, rapper Lil Nas X, a viral challenge at the time.
But some politicians in the United States are concerned that the owner of the application, the Chinese company Bytedance, represents a risk to national security.
So, is the application safe or are TikTok concerns a storm in a glass of water?
How does it work?
Videos posted on TikTok are up to 15 seconds long
Users, mostly under 20, use the application to publish videos of up to 15 seconds.
Many involve lip sync with songs, comedy routines and very novel editing tricks.
Posts are viewed by followers and not followers. By default, all accounts are public, although there is also the option to restrict publications to a personalized contact list.
An algorithm analyzes what is the material that most attracts the attention of each user, then hook it with other clips. It is easy to lose track of time as one automatically reproduces one after another.
Users can also search for specific topics or people and navigate by clicking on tags or hashtags.
TikTok also allows the sending of private messages, but this function is limited to "friends".
Anyone over the age of 13 can use it and there are parental controls.
Before TikTok, many mobile users had downloaded a similar video app called Musical.ly, which was owned by another Chinese company but was acquired by Bytedance in 2017, which led to the merger of the two platforms.
Bytedance, whose headquarters are in Pekn, also has a sister application, Douyin, which runs on a different network to comply with Chinese censorship rules.
Why does TikTok worry?
In China, the application is known as Douyin and works through a different network to comply with government regulations
The company has gone through several controversial episodes recently.
Last year, it was temporarily banned in India following a US counterintelligence investigation. that led to a
record fine of US $ 5.5 million.
It was discovered that Musical.ly had deliberately stored content published by minor users on its servers.
Critics in the United States warn that the application has the potential to compromise user privacy.
Alex Stamos, a former Facebook security chief and current professor at Stanford University, expressed concern after reports of a dispute between Bytedance employees in the US arose. and China
"It is fashionable to pretend that concerns about the Chinese technological domain are only a smokescreen of US executives, but if you really care about privacy, security and content moderation, then you should pay attention to TikTok "I wrote on Twitter.
Some former members of the US censorship team they said that their colleagues in China had asked them to remove videos posted in the United States that are not normally classified as violators of the standards,
The Washington Post newspaper reported.
According to the reports, the deleted videos contain intense kisses, suggestive dance movements and political debate.
Others worry about the fact that China requires that its social media applications provide the State with access to user information.
But Bytedance says that user data in other countries is stored separately and not shared with the Chinese authorities.
This week, American politicians asked TikTok to testify at a congressional hearing. They are looking for the company to clarify the allegations about its relationship with the Chinese government.
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said TikTok could be the target of a campaign of foreign influence, such as those carried out on Facebook and Twitter in the 2016 elections.
Bytedance says that TikTok does not publish political ads, but the senator said there were still concerns that China could find other ways to use "personal confidential information" about the users of the application.
"In line with our rapid growth, we are working to further strengthen the capabilities and increase the autonomy of the US team," Vanessa Pappas, American general manager of TikTok, told the BBC.
What does this mean for TikTok?
Grindr, the gay dating application acquired by the Chinese company Kulun, represents an example for TikTok.
The Foreign Investment Committee in the United States (Cifius) has forced Kulun to sell Grindr, which he agreed to do in 2020.
Cifius has the power to get rid of foreign acquisitions of US companies if he finds that there is a threat to national security.
And he ruled that Grindr had too much personal information about American soldiers.
It is now reported that the same committee is investigating the acquisition of Musical.ly on the basis that the company had a corporate office in California, even though it was based in Shanghai.
If Bytedance cannot convince lawmakers – at this time of election campaigns – that it does not represent a potential threat, TikTok could suffer a fate similar to Grindr.
Why the successful Chinese video application Tik Tok worries the United States – LA NACION