A ban of social media app TikTok in the UK is “plausible” but “less likely” than in some other countries, an industry expert has said.
The app’s Chinese roots have come under scrutiny in the US and elsewhere amid security concerns over potential ties to the Chinese state, surveillance and other geopolitical issues.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the Trump administration was “looking at” banning Chinese apps such as TikTok, while the platform was among more than 50 China-linked apps banned in India last week in the wake of a military skirmish between the two nations last month.
In the UK, Boris Johnson’s Government is currently re-examining the role another Chinese firm, Huawei, should play in 5G networks – and is under pressure from the US to end the company’s presence in such infrastructure.
Social media consultant and industry expert Matt Navarra acknowledged the continued “uncertainty” around a number of Chinese companies and the “perceived risk” of using them was fuelling much of the scrutiny but said he felt a ban of TikTok in the UK was ultimately unlikely.
“The concerns held about China and Chinese companies by the US and UK may well be similar, but the way it seems to be approaching them seems to be diverging,” he said.
“Just because the US is considering banning TikTok doesn’t mean the UK will follow. US anger over the UK’s decision in January to stick with Huawei equipment for 5G networks shows the UK is willing to go its own way on issues relating to China.
“Although plausible, a TikTok ban in the UK feels less likely at this time, much to the relief of teens across the country.”
Mr Navarra also said the US may have other motives over its own approach to TikTok and other Chinese firms, suggesting it may see the app as a threat to its own established social media giants.
“Trump has had China in his crosshairs for a long time. And TikTok has become a global hit over the past couple of years, leading to it becoming a credible threat to the dominance of the home-made, all-American tech juggernaut that is Facebook,” he said.
“It would be highly convenient and good for Facebook’s business if TikTok’s growth and dominance was curtailed. Especially when Facebook is trying to get traction with its own TikTok copycat – Reels by Instagram.
“Is it likely that the US will ban TikTok? With Trump, anything is possible.
“And with the increasingly hostile tone and rhetoric coming out of China from government officials, as well as other countries, such as Australia, signalling similar concerns and actions, the chances of a TikTok ban in the US grows, regardless of TikTok’s promises and its new ex-Disney, American CEO.”