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TikTok: Success in Africa, Under Threat Elsewhere

TikTok, which has experienced incredibly rapid growth, is now the leading social media app for generation Z and Millennials. Advertisers and marketers have been racing to target the massive audience using the app. It is now hailed as one of the leading social media Apps in Nigeria, Kenya and SA, but it has been banned (twice) in India, the last time was in June 2020, and it is one of the pawns in the ongoing US-China trade spat. Microsoft is still, as far as we understand, in the market to buy TikTok US out, however TikTok comes with a checked data privacy background. The European Data Protection authorities are investigating if the app is privacy compliant.

While it is easy to threaten to ban an app, actually achieving that aim is not so simple. Removing the app from stores such as Apple and Google would stop new users from being able to download the app, but existing users would still have it installed on their phones, in which case the authorities would aim to prevent it from being able to update or send notifications to the device it is installed on. Another option is to tell both Apple and Google to essentially ‘pull the plug’ on the app in the US. This would wipe the app and stop it from launching when attempted to be opened by a user.  Finally, US authorities could ask local internet providers (ISPs) to block access to TikTok’s servers. This would also stop videos being accessed.

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Alastair Tempest

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