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TikTok launches its own info hub to ‘set the record straight’

TikTok has launched a new website and Twitter account to help it combat what it says are unfounded accusations that the popular social media app is a risk to U.S. security.

The new online offensive comes almost two weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order demanding that TikTok’s parent company, China-based ByteDance, sell its U.S. operations by September 20, though the deadline was this week extended to November 12.

“With rumors and misinformation about TikTok proliferating in Washington and in the media, let us set the record straight,” TikTok said in a message on its new website.

It pointed out that data linked to U.S.-based TikTok users is stored in Virginia with a back-up in Singapore, and includes a system that has “strict controls on employee access.”

TikTok said it “has never provided any U.S. user data to the Chinese government, nor would it do so if asked. Any insinuation to the contrary is unfounded and blatantly false.”

Other messages are offered on the issues of competition and transparency, combating misinformation and election interference, and TikTok’s security road map, with a list of FAQs also included.

In the first tweet on its new @TikTok_Comms Twitter account, it linked to a recent interview given by Roland Cloutier, its chief information and security officer, on how it’s making TikTok “safe, secure and transparent for our global community.”

In the executive order signed by Trump earlier this month, the president said action had to be taken “to deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain.” It claimed that TikTok “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories.”

Trump said in the order that if the Chinese government obtained TikTok’s data, it could potentially allow it to “track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

The order also said that TikTok “reportedly censors content” that the Chinese government considers to be politically sensitive, and said the app “may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party.”

The action by Washington comes amid increasingly strained ties between the U.S. and China over a number of disputes that include an American ban on U.S. firms using equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei over spying fears.

Microsoft is currently in talks with ByteDance over the possible acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations, though last week it emerged that technical challenges could derail any potential deal.

The company may also take legal action against the order, reportedly to argue that it is unconstitutional as the company was not given an opportunity to respond. It could also challenge the assertion that the app represents a threat to U.S. national security. Digital Trends has reached out to TikTok for more information on its plans for legal action and we will update this piece when we hear back.

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Trevor Mogg
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