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  1. NEW DELHI: The government has banned 59 Chinese applications including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat in order to counter the privacy security posed by these applications. The move came amid tension with China following the June 15 clashes at Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers died in action and more than 70 were injured. ShareIT, UC browser and shopping app Clubfactory are among the other prominent apps which have been banned. The government has argued that the applications are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. The government has banned these invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, it said in a statement. A top official said that the government has considered all the aspects before taking the decision. “These apps have been there for a long time, and there are some privacy and security issues with them including risks of data going out of the country,” said the person who did not wish to be identified. The statement from the ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) said that it has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said “There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” the statement added. Experts suggested that the ban on apps is a major blow to China's Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding millions of dollars from valuation of its companies. This could also lead to more countries following India's path in acting against these Apps. "The Modi government shows its tremendous resolve and dexterity of engaging China on multiple fronts and hitting China where it hurts the most," said a party source. "This is India's first salvo to China after the border clashes, showing that India has a diverse range of retaliatory options," he added. Here is the full list of apps that have been banned: Read More: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/software/india-bans-59-chinese-apps-including-tiktok-helo-wechat/articleshow/76694814.cms https://www.ndtv.com/video/news/news/tiktok-stop-59-chinese-apps-banned-by-india-553123 https://indianexpress.com/article/india/china-apps-banned-in-india-6482079/
  2. TikTok is one of the hottest social media platforms but the CEO of Reddit had some harsh words for the popular app, calling it “fundamentally parasitic” at an event Wednesday. The comments from Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman were some of the more controversial offered up during a panel discussion with former public policy exec Elliot Schrage and former Facebook VP of Product Sam Lessin. During a brief conversation about the feature innovations of TikTok, Huffman pushed back hard on the notion that Silicon Valley startups had something to learn from the app. “Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them,” Huffman said. “Because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.” “I actively tell people, ‘Don’t install that spyware on your phone,'” he later added. The comments were made in front of a large group of Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs gathered for a one-day conference called “Social 2030” put on by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Lessin’s VC firm Slow Ventures. The event aimed to highlight and identify trends in social apps that would be shaping the next decade of the space. Huffman’s comments critiqued how TikTok tracks the actions of its users. The social media app was a hot topic of discussion throughout the event, and while Lessin asserted that the app had made a number of notable innovations, Huffman was one of the few at the event to offer deep criticisms of the app. TechCrunch has reached out to TikTok owner ByteDance for comment. Source
  3. Researchers at Check Point uncovered 'multiple' security loopholes in one of the world's most popular mobile apps. Multiple vulnerabilities in one of the world's most popular mobile applications could have allowed attackers to manipulate user accounts and expose personal data including names, email addresses and dates of birth. Uncovered by researchers at CheckPoint, the security vulnerabilities in video-sharing and social networking app TikTok – which has been downloaded by over a billion Android and iPhone users around the world – could have put the privacy of its users at risk. While researchers can't be sure if the security loopholes have been exploited, Check Point has collaborated with TikTok to fix the vulnerabilities and ensure that they can't be used now be used by hackers. The first vulnerability researchers uncovered was in the SMS functionality of the TikTok app. To help users install the application, the website allows them to send a text message to themselves with a link to download it. However, it was found that attackers could exploit this for malicious purposes. This attack requires the attacker to know the phone number of the intended victim; this could be via already being connected to them in some way, obtaining it through social engineering or phishing, or from a stolen or public list of numbers. The attack is anonymous and doesn't reveal the attacker's identity. By editing the download url parameter, the attacker can send a spoofed SMS message containing a malicious link owned by the attacker. However, that isn't the only vulnerability researchers uncovered as they found that the TikTok Ads subdomain of the official TikTok website was vulnerable to Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks, allowing attackers to inject malicious scripts that could target users via a trusted domain. Researchers discovered it was possible to manipulate this domain when using the search functionality of the TikTok Ads help centre by entering code into the address of the search results. By combining these, it's possible for the attacker to manipulate the victim's TikTok account. They could delete videos, they could make private videos public or post their own videos. However, account manipulation isn't the only potential risk of the vulnerabilities as researchers found it to be possible to combine the SMS and XSS vulnerabilities to retrieve sensitive information not meant for public consumption, including their name, email address and date of birth. "Social media applications are highly targeted for vulnerabilities as they provide a good source of personal, private data and offer a large attack surface. Malicious actors are spending large amounts of money and time to try and penetrate these hugely popular applications – yet most users are under the assumption that they are protected by the app they are using," said Oded Vanunu, head of product vulnerability research at Check Point. However, after uncovering the vulnerabilities late last year, Check Point disclosed them to TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance, who worked quickly and deployed an update to fix the security loopholes. ikTok confirmed to ZDNet that they'd worked with Check Point to fix the issue. "TikTok is committed to protecting user data. Like many organizations, we encourage responsible security researchers to privately disclose zero-day vulnerabilities to us," said Luke Deshotels, security engineer for TikTok. "Before public disclosure, CheckPoint agreed that all reported issues were patched in the latest version of our app. We hope that this successful resolution will encourage future collaboration with security researchers," he added. To protect against falling victim to attacks that exploit the vulnerabilities uncovered by researchers, users should update their TikTok application to the latest version if they've not already done so. Source
  4. SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Popular video-sharing app TikTok issued a broad ban on Wednesday against “misleading information” that could cause harm to its community or the public, setting itself apart from rivals like Facebook which say that they do not want to be arbiters of truth. “We remove misinformation that could cause harm to an individual’s health or wider public safety. We also remove content distributed by disinformation campaigns,” TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, wrote in new guidelines which expand and add detail to its earlier rules. TikTok, as a relative newcomer to the social media landscape, has yet to wrestle publicly with the persistent content moderation scandals that have dogged larger and more entrenched competitors. However, the company has grown rapidly over the last year and come under scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers concerned that it may be censoring politically sensitive content, following reports it blocked videos on protests in Hong Kong. U.S. officials have also raised national security concerns about TikTok’s handling of user data, prompting reviews by the U.S. Army and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. TikTok says it stores U.S. user data outside China. According to data from research firm Sensor Tower, TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin have been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times, including 680 million downloads in 2019. TikTok’s previous rules around “misleading content” appeared to focus mostly on scams, barring users from creating fake identities or posting false information to make money, but did not mention misinformation or disinformation campaigns. By contrast, the new rules explicitly ban “misinformation meant to incite fear, hate, or prejudice,” “misleading information about medical treatments,” and “content that misleads community members about elections or other civic processes.” The guidelines did not explain how TikTok would determine what constitutes “misleading” content and appeared to leave leeway for interpretation in enforcement decisions. A spokesman said the new policy would likely prompt the removal of content featuring conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, a fictitious story involving child exploitation and a supposedly Clinton-linked Washington pizzeria which went viral on social media in 2016 and prompted a man to fire an assault rifle at the pizzeria. The spokesman said TikTok would also consider a heavily edited video that attempted to make U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem incoherent to be misinformation. Facebook and Twitter weathered intense criticism from Democrats over the video this year after declining to take it down. On Monday, Facebook announced a new policy banning deepfakes and other manipulated media, but said the change would not result in the removal of the doctored Pelosi video. Source
  5. ByteDance, the owner behind TikTok, has been secretly building a deepfake feature that would allow users to insert their faces into videos they’re not actually in, according to a TechCrunch report. While the feature is not live yet, it would appear that TikTok and Douyin—TikTok’s sister app in China—both feature code for taking multiangle biometric scans of a user’s face. The scan can then be inserted in select videos before being shared. The news sounds concerning, especially when you consider how manipulated media can potentially be misused to spread misinformation. See: That faked viral video of Nancy Pelosi appearing to slur her words. TikTok has also been the subject of scrutiny as of late, with accusations it collected children’s data, military bans, and national security concerns. The code itself was discovered by Watchful.ai, an Israeli startup. Their findings indicate that ByteDance is hyper-aware that a potential deepfake feature might not be received too well. As a result, it appears ByteDance has gone through the trouble to build in some safeguards. For instance, users must scan their face from multiple angles to create the deepfakes—a measure which doubles as identity verification and a preventive measure from someone using a single photo to create manipulated media without consent. Users can also only insert themselves into a limited number of videos that ByteDance claims to have rights to. Lastly, when it comes to sharing, the generated videos will feature watermarks to indicate the content isn’t real. Watchful.ai also found unpublished updates to TikTok and Douyin’s terms of service with regard to the deepfake feature. It reiterates that “real identity verification” is required and that uploaded photos can’t be used. Also encouraging is the fact the feature can’t be used by minors. Neither TikTok nor Douyin seems keen to own up to the feature existing, however. Spokespersons from both apps denied aspects of Watchful.ai’s findings to TechCrunch. Specifically, TikTok denied it was an upcoming feature but also seemingly inadvertently acknowledged the code existed by stating “The inactive code fragments are being removed to eliminate any confusion.” That disconnect between the two apps tracks with recent reports that ByteDance is doing its best to isolate TikTok from the rest of its Chinese operations over espionage concerns. In an email to Gizmodo, a TikTok spokesperson said, “TikTok is not experimenting with this feature, has never offered this feature, and has no intention to offer such a feature in the future.” It’s hard to say whether the deepfake feature will ever see the light of day in the U.S. It’s possible that it could be a China-only release, or that ByteDance might find launching a deepfake feature isn’t worth the potential blowback. Even so, ByteDance isn’t the only social media app to dabble with media manipulation via filters or face swapping. Snapchat, for one, has had a face swap feature for years now. Chinese app Zao took it a step further, allowing users to transpose their faces onto famous actors in short clips. The problem is the more sophisticated these deepfake tools get, the murkier it gets with regard to IP, misinformation, and potential abuse. Whether any other apps attempt to incorporate more extensive deepfake tools into their platforms remains to be seen. Update, 01/03/2020, 1:46pm: Added comment from TikTok spokesperson Source
  6. The US Army has banned the use of popular Chinese social media video app TikTok, with Military.com first reporting it was due to security concerns. "It is considered a cyber threat," a US Army spokesperson told Military.com. "We do not allow it on government phones." The ban comes in the wake of Democrat Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Cotton writing a letter to US Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire insisting an investigation into TikTok would be necessary to determine whether the Chinese-owned social media video app poses a risk to national security. "Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the US and brief Congress on these findings," the letter said. The social media video app, known as Douyin in China and TikTok outside its home market, is owned by Beijing-based unicorn ByteDance. Senator Marco Rubio had previously claimed that the popular app has been trying to censor content in US in order to be in line with the interests of the Chinese government. "[Chinese apps] are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party," Rubio said at the time. On the same day of the US Army announcing its ban, TikTok released its first transparency report that showed how many requests the company received from government bodies and law enforcement in markets in which the application operates. This first report covered the first half of 2019 calendar year. "We take any request from government bodies extremely seriously, and closely review each such request we receive to determine whether, for example, the request adheres to the required legal process or the content violates a local law," the company wrote in its transparency report. "TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while respecting the privacy and rights of our users." The report revealed that law enforcement in India made the most total requests during the period with 107. Of those, 99 were legal requests and the remaining eight were for emergencies. However, of the information that was requested by the Indian government, TikTok only provided 47% of it. Meanwhile, the percentage of information produced to US law enforcement reached 86%, based on 79 total requests and 255 total accounts specified. For Japan, the country with the third most total requests at 35, 21% of requested information was produced. Of the total, 28 were legal requests. Countries where law enforcement agencies saw 100% of information produced based on their requests included Canada, Iceland, Israel, Singapore, and Turkey. When it came to requests by government bodies to remove content deemed as a violation of local laws, India topped the chart with 11 requests, while Japan had three, and both Australia and France had two. For the United States, there were six government requests, although a total of seven accounts were removed or restricted. There were, however, no take-down requests by the Chinese government or law enforcement. The transparency report also revealed that 3,345 copyright content take-down notices were issued and of those 85% saw some content removed. "Upon receiving an effective notice from a rights holder of potential intellectual property infringement, TikTok will remove the infringing content in a timely manner," TikTok said in its report. In October, the company hired global law firm K&L Gates LLP, including two former US congressmen Bart Gordon and Jeff Denham, to review its content moderation policies in a bid to further strengthen the platform's moderation policies and overall transparency. TikTok made the external hires to "further increase transparency around our content moderation policies and the practices we employ to protect our community," Vanessa Pappas, TikTok's US general manager, said at the time. Source
  7. A Bloomberg report on Monday evening said that ByteDance is considering selling off a majority stake in its incredibly popular and fantastically annoying music app, TikTok, amid intensifying U.S. government concerns that the China-based company is a security and espionage threat. However, the firm has denied the report as “inaccurate” and “meritless.” ByteDance was previously reported to be preparing to wall off TikTok from the rest of its Chinese operations as part of a plan to reassure the powerful Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) that it doesn’t plan on abusing its access to the hundreds of millions of devices it’s installed on worldwide on behalf of China’s security services. The argument goes that all those government agencies need to do is ask, and China-based businesses will be forced to comply, due to both a lack of basic legal protections and sweeping laws consolidating government control over the nation’s domestic internet. Selling off a majority stake in TikTok would significantly assuage those fears, as the Beijing-based ByteDance would no longer have unilateral control. According to Bloomberg, ByteDance’s wariness over the CFIUS issue seems to have continued to grow, with sources saying advisors are “pitching everything from an aggressive legal defense and operational separation for TikTok to sale of a majority stake.” One source said that ByteDance believes it could make well over $10 billion for a majority stake in the app, Bloomberg added. But if a sale proceeds, a source told the news agency, the likeliest scenario is that ByteDance will attempt to protect the value of the app by selling it to company investors like SoftBank, Sequoia Capital, or Susquehanna International Group. ByteDance would obviously prefer not to sell off its crown jewel, according to Bloomberg, and less drastic options remain on the table. Another report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday indicated that ByteDance was looking at creating a headquarters for TikTok, which currently lacks an official one, outside of China. Bloomberg also noted that ByteDance, which did not seek CFIUS pre-approval for its acquisition of the app’s original owner, Shanghai-based Musical.ly, could argue that the committee lacks legal standing to force a divestiture despite its massive userbase in the states and main office in Los Angeles. ByteDance has denied that it has any plans to sell off parts of TikTok, according to Reuters. A company spokesperson told the news agency that there have “been no discussions about any partial or full sale of TikTok” and that “These rumors are completely meritless.” In a separate memo to staff, Reuters wrote, TikTok chief Alex Zhu wrote that “From time to time you may read stories in the media that are not true. Today there is an inaccurate report claiming that ByteDance has considered selling part or all of TikTok... We went on the record saying it was not true, but they decided to publish it anyway. I want to assure you that we have had no discussions with potential buyers of TikTok, nor do we have any intention to.” Source
  8. China’s TikTok today launched an education program in India as the popular short-video app looks to expand its offering and assuage local authority in one of its biggest markets. This is the first time TikTok has launched a program of this kind in any market, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. TkTok, owned by the world’s most valued startup Bytedance, said it’s working with a number of content creators and firms in India to populate the platform with educational videos. These bite-sized clips cover a range of topics, from school-level science and math concepts to learning new languages. The social app is also featuring videos that offer tips on health and mental awareness, and motivational talks. The social platform, which is used by more than 200 million users in India every month, said its education program is aimed at “democratizing learning for the Indian digital community on the platform.” (TikTok had 120 million monthly active users in April this year.) It has partnered with edtech startups Vedantu, Toppr, Made Easy and Gradeup that will produce educational content for TikTok. It is also collaborating with social enterprises Josh Talks and the Nudge Foundation to mentor 5,000 people across India. (Some of the partnerships were disclosed a few months ago.) An executive with Josh Talks said the firm has been able to reach more than 35 million users in less than two months on TikTok, far more users than it has attracted on other platforms. Sachin Sharma, director of Sales and Partnerships at TikTok, said the social app’s foray into education is a response to the demand it has seen from users. Educational videos are some of the most popular and engaging videos on the platform globally, he said at a press conference in New Delhi. In recent months, more than 10 million educational videos have been created and shared on TikTok, where they have garnered more than 48 billion views, Sharma claimed. He did not reveal the financial structure of TikTok’s deal with its creator partners. As consumption of mobile video booms in India, thanks in part to the availability of cheap data and proliferation of low-cost Android handsets, a growing number of edtech startups have emerged in the nation to deliver their catalog online. Eight-year-old startup Byju’s, which offers a learning app, has seen its customer base balloon in recent years. The startup, valued at over $5.75 billion, had about 35 million users as of three months ago. Educational content is also more attractive to advertisers, which could help TikTok explore better monetization options in the future, analysts said. Expansion to e-learning would also help the startup improve its brand image with local authority. The app has already run into issues in India a couple of times. Earlier this year, an Indian court banned TikTok, alleging that it was hosting and promoting pornographic and other illicit content. The ban was later lifted. Source
  9. I4rg£8all8ag

    TikTok v14.0.5 [Mod]

    All you have to do is watch, engage with what you like, skip what you don’t, and you’ll find an endless stream of short videos that feel personalized just for you. From your morning coffee to your afternoon errands, TikTok has the videos that are guaranteed to make your day. We make it easy for you to discover and create your own original videos by providing easy-to-use tools to view and capture your daily moments. Take your videos to the next level with special effects, filters, music, and more. ■ Watch endless amount of videos customized specifically for you A personalized video feed based on what you watch, like, and share. TikTok offers you real, interesting, and fun videos that will make your day. ■ Explore videos, just one scroll away Watch all types of videos, from Comedy, Gaming, DIY, Food, Sports, Memes, and Pets, to Oddly Satisfying, ASMR, and everything in between. ■ Pause recording multiple times in one video Pause and resume your video with just a tap. Shoot as many times as you need. ■ Be entertained and inspired by a global community of creators Millions of creators are on TikTok showcasing their incredible skills and everyday life. Let yourself be inspired. ■ Add your favorite music or sound to your videos for free Easily edit your videos with millions of free music clips and sounds. We curate music and sound playlists for you with the hottest tracks in every genre, including Hip Hop, Edm, Pop, Rock, Rap, and Country, and the most viral original sounds. ■ Express yourself with creative effects Unlock tons of filters, effects, and AR objects to take your videos to the next level. ■ Edit your own videos Our integrated editing tools allow you to easily trim, cut, merge and duplicate video clips without leaving the app. What's New: - Find out why everyone is talking about TikTok. The latest version includes new account security settings and performance improvements that allow you to watch movies with even more pleasure! ★★★ MOD ★★★ > Removed ads, videos are downloaded without watermarks > Pinch to Ultra > Videos should not be cropped on screens with aspect ratios other than 16: 9 > Font in comments now supports Cyrillic > (new) Links to profiles in all instagrams / YouTube now open either in an external browser or in the corresponding applications No advertisements Google play Info: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zhiliaoapp.musically Download; armv7: Site: https://www.mirrored.to Sharecode: /files/5ESGMKIQ/TikTok_14.0.5_ad-free(ARMv7).apk_links armv8: Site: https://www.mirrored.to Sharecode: /files/BCHJDT8I/TikTok_14.0.5_ad-free(ARM64-v8).apk_links
  10. China’s ByteDance, owner of wildly popular (and often deeply annoying) music app TikTok, has moved to segregate much of the app’s operations from the rest of its business in a bid to convince the U.S. government user data is safe from the prying eyes of Chinese spies, Reuters reported on Wednesday. ByteDance acquired the U.S.-based app Musical.ly in 2017 for a billion dollars, helping TikTok to rapidly acquire hundreds of millions of users. According to Reuters, the company hopes to reassure the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that user data is safe from the Chinese government in order to avoid the fate of Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd, which the committee compelled to agree to divest gay dating app Grindr in May 2019. User data acquired by TikTok would include names, ages, email addresses, phone numbers, location data, account credentials (potentially including reused passwords), and of course any content uploaded to the app. The fear goes, much as it has accumulated around other Chinese-owned corporations that have attracted U.S. scrutiny like Huawei, that due to the lack of privacy protections in China all the nation’s security services need to do is ask and they will suddenly be granted access to all of that information. According to Reuters, a source said that steps ByteDance has taken include separating TikTok’s “product and business development, marketing and legal teams from those of its Chinese social media app Douyin” earlier this year. It also hired a third-party consultant to audit how it handles personal data and reiterated it stores all U.S. user data stateside, as well as stated TikTok content is beyond the jurisdiction of Chinese authorities. Furthermore, it is hiring more U.S. engineers to work on TikTok and creating a data management oversight team in Mountain View, California, sources told Reuters. Reports that ByteDance is the target of a CFIUS national security probe focusing on the Musical.ly acquisition first popped up around the start of November. The U.S. Army, which launched a recruitment campaign via the app, has also launched its own security assessment aimed at determining whether the risks of using the app outweighed the gains. According to Reuters, ByteDance views the CFIUS probe as informal, and sources said that CFIUS has not raised any questions about censorship on the app. One user recently claimed that her account was suspended after she posted a TikTok criticizing the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims—specifically widespread accounts that hundreds of thousands have been or are being processed through concentration camps in Xinjiang—though ByteDance insisted it was because a previous TikTok from the user’s account featured a photo of Osama bin Laden, setting off automated terrorism filters. Source
  11. TikTok has been downloaded 1.5 billion times according to Sensor Tower The analytics firm, Sensor Tower, has revealed that the social media app, TikTok, has clocked more than 1.5 billion downloads across the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. This year, it has been downloaded 614 million times, up 6% year-on-year. In terms of its position in the rankings, Sensor Tower estimates that it sits in third place which is pretty remarkable when we look at the surrounding apps. In first and second place is WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, while in fourth and fifth place is Facebook and Instagram. What it seems to be suggesting is that Facebook’s seemingly impenetrable grip on the social media landscape is finally starting to weaken somewhat. In terms of where user numbers are coming from, India and China occupy the top spots. During this year alone, users in India generated 277.6 million downloads which represents 45% of the global installs. Meanwhile, it has been downloaded 45.5 million times in China which represents 7.4% of the global installs. Regarding the number of installs in China, things are a bit unclear; Sensor Tower’s data doesn’t take into account third-party app stores but a huge number of people rely on these stores within the country. During its entire existence, it’s estimated that TikTok has earned $175 million worldwide via the App Store and Google Play Store. This revenue has largely come from China (48.3%), with the U.S. (35.7%), and the U.K. (3.9%) coming in second and third position. A massive $115.3 million of the $175 million was earned this year alone. Source: TikTok has been downloaded 1.5 billion times according to Sensor Tower (Neowin)
  12. More scrutiny for the Chinese company The United States has opened a national security review into TikTok’s parent company over its acquisition of social media app Musical.ly, Reuters reports. In 2017, China-based TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology bought up the popular American lip-syncing app — and its user base — for $1 billion. Last year, the app was fully rebranded as part of TikTok. But in the time since the deal closed, TikTok has faced substantial pressure from US lawmakers who have questioned how the company moderates its political content and stores its user data. In a letter last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for an investigation into the company, writing that “Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Community Party.” The letter followed reports that TikTok was censoring political content that was offensive to the Chinese government. (The company has said its moderation decisions are based in the US and “are not influenced by any foreign government.”) Rubio’s note was followed by one from Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also calling for a review. According to Reuters, the US has now launched such a review through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which is responsible for reviewing deals with national security implications. The news service reports that TikTok did not go through a CFIUS review when it made the Musical.ly acquisition, and are in talks about national security concerns now. The investigation is the latest hurdle for the company, which has dealt with intense scrutiny as the tech industry as a whole faces renewed questions about Chinese censorship online. Last month, in one notable example, Apple was criticized for pulling an app used by pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. “While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the US,” a company spokesperson told The Verge in a statement. “Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so.” Source: US launches national security review of TikTok, Reuters reports (via The Verge)
  13. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Wednesday requesting the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to look into the China-based owner of TikTok's 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly. Rubio claimed there is "growing evidence" that TikTok's U.S. platform is censoring content. Rubio's request comes as the NBA is grappling with controversy over its ties to China. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will ask U.S. authorities to investigate the 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly by TikTok, accusing the China-based app of censorship. Rubio announced his plans in a tweet on Wednesday, and letter sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to look into "national security implications" of the deal. "These Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party," Rubio wrote in his letter to Mnuchin. "There continues to be ample and growing evidence that TikTok's platform for Western markets, including the U.S., is censoring content that is not in line with the Chinese Government and Communist Party directives." Rubio claimed TikTok suppresses speech on sensitive topics to Chinese officials, like Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong and Tawiwan. In a tweet Tuesday, Rubio he said he also asked the Trump administration "to fully enforce anti-boycott laws that prohibit any U.S. person — including U.S. subsidiaries of Chinese companies from complying with foreign boycotts seeking to coerce U.S. companies to conform with #China's government views." In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said, "TikTok US is localized, adheres to US laws, and stores all US user data in the US. Our content and moderation policies are led by our US-based team and are not influenced by any foreign government. The Chinese government does not request that TikTok censor content, and would not have jurisdiction regardless, as TikTok does not operate there." The letter comes as the relationship between China and U.S. corporations is under a microscope. The National Basketball Association became embroiled in an international dispute after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a message in support of anti-Chinese government protests in Hong Kong over the weekend. While the NBA initially released a statement saying it had "great respect for the history and culture of China," commissioner Adam Silver later said the NBA is not in the place to "adjudicate" between different viewpoints. As of Wednesday, 11 of 13 Chinese businesses listed as official partners on the NBA China website have distanced themselves from the NBA, CNBC reported. TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media apps worldwide, especially among Gen Z users. The app, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, features user-generated videos set to a variety of songs accessible through the app. Unlike other popular social media apps like Facebook-owned Instagram, TikTok's feed of videos is not based on users following specific accounts, but rather relies more heavily on its algorithm to learn user interests. The app was molded from ByteDance's 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, a lip-syncing app developed in China that also had a large following in the U.S. At the time, TechCrunch reported that the deal was worth up to $1 billion. ByteDance ultimately folded Musical.ly's brand into TikTok to reflect its wider range of content. TikTok is not the only Chinese app that has gained traction among U.S. users. Apps developed by Chinese companies or those with large Chinese investors brought in revenues of $674.8 million in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2019, according to data previously compiled by Sensor Tower for CNBC. "PUBG Mobile" and "Clash of Clans," two games made respectively by Chinese company Tencent and one of its subsdiaries, have also gained a large U.S. following. TikTok recently announced it would not allow paid political ads on its platform, saying it did not fit into its overall experience. A U.S. investigation would add to government scrutiny from the U.K. which launched an investigation into whether TIkTok violated Europe's General Data Protection Regulation. Source
  14. No 'election-related ads, advocacy ads, or issue ads.' Already under fire for advancing Chinese foreign policy by censoring topics like Hong Kong’s protests and pro-LGBT content, the Beijing-based video app TikTok is now further distancing itself from U.S. social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with a ban on political ads on its app. The company today says it will not allow political ads on TikTok, noting they don’t fit in with the experience the short-form video app aims to offer. “Any paid ads that come into the community need to fit the standards for our platform, and the nature of paid political ads is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience,” says Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s VP of Global Business Solutions, who recently joined the company from Facebook. “To that end, we will not allow paid ads that promote or oppose a candidate, current leader, political party or group or issue at the federal, state or local level — including election-related ads, advocacy ads or issue ads,” he says. TikTok further explains that it wants to be known as a place for creative expression, and one that creates a “positive, refreshing environment” that inspires that creativity. It will further encourage these goals through its products like its fun filters and effects, as well as its brand partnerships. Today, TikTok offers a range of ad opportunities, including in-feed video ads, launch screen ads and other native ads like its sponsored hashtag challenges. It also more recently launched a beta version of the TikTok Creator Marketplace, which will help to connect brands with TikTok creators for their marketing campaigns. “Throughout all of this, however, our primary focus is on creating an entertaining, genuine experience for our community,” Chandlee continues. “While we explore ways to provide value to brands, we’re intent on always staying true to why users uniquely love the TikTok platform itself: for the app’s light-hearted and irreverent feeling that makes it such a fun place to spend time,” he says. Political ads don’t fit with this agenda, the company believes. But running those sorts of ads also come with significant challenges, as Facebook has found. It had to create a system to verify the credentials of political advertisers, for example, which requires them to submit identification information like their street address, phone number, business email and website matching the email, tax ID number or U.S. Federal Election Commmission ID number. It also launched a publicly searchable database of political ads, for transparency’s sake. As a Chinese-run company, TikTok may not have the resources to run a similar operation. In fact, it seemed to be having trouble cracking down on the hate speech found on its app last year, VICE had reported. The ban on political ads isn’t really new to TikTok, it’s more of a reiteration of the existing policy — but it’s a statement that TikTok hadn’t made before. The company tells Techcrunch it decided to address the policy proactively in order to be transparent about its advertising policies — especially as interest in marketing opportunities continues to grow on the platform. Source
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  16. Indian court moves to lift ban on Chinese video app TikTok An Indian state court on Wednesday moved to lift a ban on popular video app TikTok in the country, two lawyers involved in the case said, in a boost for its developer Beijing Bytedance Technology Co. Earlier this month, the court in the southern state of Tamil Nadu ordered the federal government to prohibit TikTok downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography and could expose children to sexual predators. Acting upon subsequent instructions from the federal IT ministry, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google last week removed TikTok from their Indian app stores. But on Wednesday, hearing a plea from Bytedance, the state court reversed its April 3 decision pushing for the ban, K. Neelamegam, a lawyer who argued against Bytedance in the case, told Reuters. Neelamegam added that his client, an individual who had filed a public interest litigation calling for the ban, did not plan to appeal the court’s latest decision. A senior government official told Reuters the IT ministry, once it received the court’s order, would ask Apple and Google to allow the TikTok app to return on their platforms. A spokesman for TikTok said the company welcomed the court’s decision. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our users better,” he said. TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects and is one of the world’s most popular apps. It has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. TikTok features memes and music videos, with some clips showing youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-syncing and dancing to popular tunes. Some Indian politicians and parents say its content is inappropriate. A second lawyer involved in the case, who declined to be named, said Bytedance argued in the state court that TikTok was just a platform where users upload their videos and the company should not be held liable for their actions. A “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok’s videos were considered inappropriate or obscene, the company has previously said in a court filing. Bytedance had also urged India’s Supreme Court to quash the ban, but the case was referred back to the state court. The ban was resulting in “financial losses” of up to $500,000 a day for Bytedance, and had put more than 250 jobs at risk, the company had said. The ban worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms. Source
  17. Google and Apple asked to remove China’s TikTok in India: Report The decision follows reports that Foxconn is looking to expand manufacturing operations in India. India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has reportedly asked for the removal of China's video and live-streaming app TikTok, with the Economic Times claiming the government asked Apple and Google to remove it from their respective app stores. Citing people familiar with the matter, the reportsaid MeitY's order will stop further downloads of the application, but those already possessing the app will be able to continue using it on their device. The move follows the Indian Supreme Court on Monday refusing to stay an earlier order by the Madras High Court to ban the app. It is expected the matter will be heard by the Madras High Court on April 22. As the Economic Times explained, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court passed an order earlier this month directing the government to prohibit TikTok from being downloaded in India. It also restricted media companies from telecasting any videos that are made using the application. The ban follows reports that China's Foxconn is expanding its manufacturing operations in India. Foxconn is Apple's largest and most well-known assembler and iPhone manufacturer. According to the South China Morning Post, Foxconn will start mass producing Apple products in India this year. The report also said that Foxconn's 69-year-old founder and chairman Terry Gou Tai-ming will decrease his workload during the day-to-day operations, hoping to pass down his 45 years of experience to younger management. It was detailed in November that Foxconn was planning to cut operational costs by 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) following a "very difficult and competitive year". At the time, it was said roughly 10% of non-technical staff would be eliminated from the payroll in 2019. The reduction of expenses in the iPhone manufacturing sector to the tune of six billion yuan, roughly a third of Foxconn's current expenditure in the business, was also flagged in an internal memo. It was also revealed in January that Foxconn had shed around 50,000 contract jobs since October. Source
  18. TikTok stops young users from uploading videos after FTC settlement Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images TikTok will no longer allow children under 13 to upload videos, leave comments, build a profile, or send messages, after a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission today required the company to come into compliance with a federal children’s privacy law. The changes take effect today for all new and existing TikTok users, who are now being prompted by the app to enter their birthday. Some users have reported that their accounts and videos have been deleted without warning after inputting a birthdate that would make them younger than 13. YOUNGER USERS CAN WATCH A CURATED SELECTION OF VIDEOS TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million to the FTC today to settle accusations that it was in violation of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires that apps and websites get parental approval for users under 13 years old. As part of the settlement agreement, all videos previously uploaded by users under 13 will be deleted, and the company is being required to come into compliance with COPPA when signing up younger users. To come into compliance, TikTok has chosen to segment younger users into what it’s calling a “limited, separate app experience.” Users under 13 will still be able to watch videos, but TikTok says they’ll be curated. It also sounds as though they’ll be able to record, but not post, their own videos. Some people over the age of 13 are complaining that their accounts have now vanished, after they entered the wrong birthday. TikTok has been responding to users on Twitter by asking users to submit a copy of their government ID on the “Report a Problem” section of the app, but users have reported that no such feature exists. We’ve reached out to TikTok for clarification. Source
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