What is all this fuss about US President Donald Trump banning the most popular mobile app for teenagers around the world? Last November, I wrote in this column about the rise and rise of Beijing’s ByteDance Technology, the company behind 15-second video-clip app Douyin (literally “shaking sound” or vibrato), news app Jinri Toutiao (“today’s headlines”) and its Western versions, TopBuzz, a news aggregation app for Americans.
Bytedance is the world’s most valuable privately-held tech company, worth more than US$100 billion ($138 billion), according to Pitchbook, a Seattle-based venture capital research firm. Bytedance also owns TikTok, the international version of Douyin, which has become the most controversial mobile app on earth.
India, where it has 300 million users, banned TikTok a month ago and the US could be the next to bar its teenagers from accessing it on their smartphones on national security grounds. The app was withdrawn from Hong Kong after the new security laws were introduced three weeks ago. TikTok said it was pulling out from the former British colony because, as a Chinese company, it could not refuse to comply with the new law and would have no choice but to provide data and details.