Ask a young person about TikTok and they’ll probably tell you it’s like Vine, only weirder. The meme-powered short-video site has turned into a most serious business, however. Last year, TikTok’s owner, the Chinese firm ByteDance, obtained financing at a jaw-dropping $78 billion valuation. That helped TikTok pass Uber for the world’s most valuable startup in 2018, even before Uber’s collapse really kicked off.
And TikTok’s winning streak has continued. The company brought in $7.2 billion in revenues last year and sees that figure exploding to nearly $17 billion for full-year 2019. TikTok’s silly videos have become a major part of the internet. But some politicians aren’t amused.
TikTok: A Dangerous Social Media Site?
A group of senators including leading Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Tom Cotton have called for a formal inquiry into the video site. They wrote a letter demanding an investigation. It cited reports of TikTok censoring videos of controversial events in places such as Hong Kong that would put the Chinese Communist Party in a bad light. Additionally, they argue that foreign actors might try to use TikTok to manipulate upcoming American elections, and conclude:
“Given these concerns, we ask that the intelligence community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.”
These aren’t the first Senators to grow worried about TikTok. Earlier this month, Republican Marco Rubio asked the Treasury Department to investigate corporate parent’s ByteDance for their acquisition of a U.S. social-media operation. He did so, he said, because, he claims that China is using social media to:
“advance their foreign policy and globally suppress freedom of speech,