TikTok, the most-downloaded social media app in September, is looking to cut its Chinese roots. And for good reason: Through TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, the Chinese government demands access to TikTok’s user data. And when requested, ByteDance hands it over.
Now TikTok wants to move out of Beijing and into Singapore or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. That’s a great idea — and other companies would do well to follow suit, even if it means losing profits.
Earlier this month, United States senators called to undertake a national security review undertook an investigation into TikTok’s ties with China, concerned that the company was censoring content to please Beijing. ByteDance runs ads for Chinese government ministries at no cost, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company also surrenders users’ cell phone numbers and national citizen identification numbers to Chinese police if they’re deemed necessary to investigate an alleged crime.
As a former TikTok employee who worked in the company’s Los Angeles office told the Wall Street Journal, TikTok “is a Chinese company” who “answers to China.”
Other organizations such as the NBA and Google eagerly kowtow to China. After Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s protestors last month, the rest of the NBA rushed to appease China’s Communist leaders. Google also collaborates with the Chinese government, agreeing to censor certain search-engine requests. It also runs an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing.
For the protection of privacy and human rights, large corporations should be leery in business dealings with China, and they should not sacrifice users’ privacy for the sake of complying with a totalitarian regime. TikTok should exit China, and the others should follow.