The European Commission and the European Council, the EU’s two largest political bodies, are the latest government entities to implement a staff ban on TikTok. Officials said there were no specific incidents that prompted the decision, but rather they were concerned about the access the Chinese government might have to user data and how it might use the app to further its interests.
TikTok has been the subject of similar bans by federal agencies and state governments in the United States, for very similar reasons. The app has also been banned in Taiwan due to concerns about China’s reach, as well as in a dozen other countries due to its pornographic content and gambling activities. India also banned the app following its border clashes with China in 2020.
As a result, anti-TikTok – and, more broadly, anti-China – fervor has reached a fever pitch.
In response, the company has hired about 40 lobbyists in Washington in recent months, and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew stormed Capitol Hill this month in an attempt to sway members of Congress in his direction. Lawmakers were not impressed and remained unmoved.
« None of the suggested efforts … were particularly relevant to my concerns, » Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, told congressional reporters after hosting Chew in his office last week.
In addition to TikTok’s ties to China, U.S. politicians are concerned about the sophistication of the app’s video recommendation algorithm. Part of the app’s appeal is its ability to seamlessly predict which videos a person wants to watch, some of which users may not even know about until the app’s « For You » page convinces them otherwise.
However, while governments around the world are increasingly willing to ban TikTok, the phenomenon is still relatively new in Europe.
The European Commission is the first major EU body to do so; previously, only Dutch politicians discussed a government ban at the national level. Chew has been working to avoid such a move by meeting with EU officials, including an in-depth discussion in January, during which he was told that the company still has a lot of work to do to gain the trust of regulators.