TikTok by ByteDance Ltd. announced that it will remove its app from Hong Kong’s mobile stores in the coming days. It is the first internet service to withdraw from the city after Beijing has given comprehensive powers to combat national security threats.
This announcement comes because the Chinese service is under fire even in the United States because it censors content and controls a lot of the data of American users. On Monday, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Fox News, "We are definitely reviewing" a ban on Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.
ByteDance, the world's most valuable startup, operates some of the most popular social media platforms on both sides of the Pacific. TikTok is now the video destination of choice for more than 100 million mostly younger Americans, while the Douyin and Toutiao services are important entertainment and news venues for a similar number of Chinese. TikTok said the exit from Hong Kong could take place within a few days.
"Given recent events, we have decided to stop operating the TikTok app in Hong Kong," said a spokesman for the service.
TikTok's departure could mean an exodus of social media companies. The proclamation comes after Internet giants from Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. have spoken out against national security legislation, which gives the Hong Kong government extensive powers to monitor online and public spaces. US companies said they would not process city government data requests because they fear the new security law could punish protests.
The data from the sensor tower showed that TikTok had around 1.8 million downloads in September 2019 in a city with 7.4 million inhabitants.
TikTok has continued to face allegations that its content decisions are in line with Beijing's priorities. Videos were made relating to democracy-friendly protests in Hong Kong, the abuse of Muslims in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, and standoffs on the Indian-Chinese border. Last year, a ByteDance spokesman told Bloomberg TikTok that videos were not removed from the Hong Kong protests for political reasons. Instead, they may have been removed for violating policies related to violent, graphic, shocking, or sensational content.
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