Dangers of Tiktok

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

Just last month, House Rep. Benny Abante Jr. proposed a ban on social media platform TikTok and other applications from potential foreign adversary countries in a bid to protect Filipinos.

The proposal is contained in Abante’s House Bill 10489 which aims to regulate foreign adversary controlled applications and the app stores and internet hosting services through which users access them.

According to Abante, TikTok has 49.9 million active users in the Philippines. Its parent company, ByteDance, has a connection to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government that cannot be overlooked, he said.

The lawmaker noted that TikTok collects personal data from unsuspecting users and subscribers which is alarming as TikTok can easily transmit these data to the Chinese government.

He emphasized that with the rising tensions between China and the Philippines, our government must take positive preemptive action to ensure that its citizens are protected from manipulation and misinformation campaigns using social media by foreign adversary countries.

His proposed Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Regulation Act seeks to prohibit app stores and internet hosting services from enabling the distribution, maintenance or updating of a foreign adversary-controlled application.

It defines a foreign adversary-controlled application as a website, desktop or mobile application, or augmented or immersive technology application that is operated directly or indirectly by a covered company that is controlled by a foreign adversary and that is determined by the president to present a significant threat to the national security of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, HB 10489 defines a foreign adversary country as any country identified by the chief executive as having interests adversarial to that of the Philippines, in terms of threats to national security and our territorial integrity.

Several countries have already enacted legislation that will regulate or even ban TikTok. India for one imposed a nationwide ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps like the messaging app WeChat over privacy and security concerns.  Other countries have followed including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nepal, Norway, Pakistan, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the US.

Following the filing of the said measure, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said that it is open to regulating TikTok as well as other applications that could possibly be used for illegal activities.

DICT Undersecretary Jeffrey Dy said that they welcome the passage of laws that would allow the President of the Republic to control or regulate applications which are being used for espionage.It has now been weeks since Dy and Abante Jr. have called for formal hearings and investigations into the allegations of improper behavior by TikTok and more than eight months since the National Security Council announced plans to investigate TikTok.

Just to be clear, this is in no way critical of the NSC, DICT or Congress. In fact, they are all to be lauded for pushing for formal hearings, investigations and regulation of TikTok. But time is of the essence. The alleged dangers posed by TikTok are too serious and real to just shrug off.

Fortune.com reported recently that when asked whether TikTok specifically could be used by the Chinese government to influence US elections, US director of national intelligence Avril Haines said that they cannot rule out that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would use it. Leaders of the US intelligence community have recently warned Congress that Chinese influence could lead to myriad domestic threats, including election interference.

Both the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and officials at the Federal Communications Commission have warned that TikTok parent ByteDance, which has offices in China, could share TikTok user data such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers with China’s authoritarian government.

One report by APNews said that officials fear that TikTok would be forced to give the vast amount of data on its users to Beijing under a 2017 law that compels companies to turn over any personal data relevant to China’s national security.

Equally alarming are recent reports about the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and TikTok exploring the possibility of establishing a content creator academy in the Philippines. The idea of TikTok formally influencing local content creators with Philippine government sanction should be a nightmare to everyone.

With the escalating conflict between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute and with the 2025 Philippine midterm elections happening in less than a year from now, it’s about time that these investigations on TikTok start taking off and that our government take a firm stand on TikTok.


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