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‘Social media literacy is national security’: US Chief of Naval Operations raises privacy concerns over Chinese app TikTok

In a series of Tweets, the U.S. Navy Public Affairs officer asked his fellow soldiers to prudently choose the app they want to use to communicate with each other. He said that though TikTok is an extremely popular app, they should be choosing avenues which are more trustworthy.

The US Chief of Naval Operations has taken to Twitter to raise apprehensions over TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing social media app, and concern over the privacy of its users. Sharing an article by The Wall Street Journal, Charlie Brown, the US Navy’s Public Affairs officer, raised apprehensions about the dynamics of a social media platform owned by a Beijing-based company.

In a series of Tweets, the U.S. Navy Public Affairs officer asked his fellow soldiers to prudently choose the app they want to use to communicate with each other. He said that though TikTok is an extremely popular app, they should be choosing avenues which are more trustworthy.

TikTok sharing information of its users with Chinese Government

Raising apprehensions on the privacy of the Chinese app users, the US Navy Chief of Information stated that one needn’t be a think tank expert to understand how important it has always been for the Chinese government to have control over information, insinuating that all the information which a person shares on TikTok, including all personal information and private texts are possibly in possession of the Chinese government.

The Navy officers asserted “social media literacy is national security”, and urged all the sailors to refrain from using TikTok, instead choose from a set of other apps that are more ‘trustworthy’. He also stated that not just crucial data on the government issued-phones, but other information can also be exploited.

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It is pertinent to note here, that last year, both the US Navy and the US Army had banned the social media app TikTok from government-issued mobile devices over “cybersecurity threat”. The ban followed guidance issued on December 16, 2019, by the U.S. Department of Defense, identifying TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use.

Downgrading of the Chinese app

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. The social media platform TikTok where users share short-videos witnessed a huge fallout after it was massively reported by users in India after several incidents of the platform being used for glorifying various crimes emerged in recent times. Last month, the app’s rating on Google Play Store had dropped swiftly from 4.6 to 1.3. 

In India, there have been several complaints against the potential security threat associated with the platform.

Following that, several social media users had reported how the Chinese app is propagating hate crimes by enabling ‘TikTok influencers’ to glorify hate crimes against Hindus. Recently, some TikTok ‘celebrities’ have been seen inciting violence, encouraging acid attacks against women and spreading Islamist propaganda over coronavirus spread. The country witnessed significant violence following the incident and it’s unclear still the extent to which TikTok contributed to it.

Concerned over the Chinese app’s security issues, there have been demands in India too for the government to ban the app.

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