The Dutch government is the latest to instruct its officials to remove the China-owned TikTok app from officials’ phones.
The Dutch Ministry of the Interior said on Tuesday that it discourages the use of all apps from “countries with an aggressive cyber program aimed at the Netherlands or Dutch interests” on phones distributed by the government.
Here’s what you need to know about TikTok and why countries restrict its use:
What is TikTok and how popular is the app?
TikTok is a social media app dedicated to short videos, with over a billion active users users in 150 countries.
According to the CEO, more than 150 million people use the app in the United States alone.
In comparison, Facebook has nearly three billion active userswhile Instagram has more than 1.2 billion.
Why are countries having problems with TikTok?
Concerns about TikTok’s perceived security risks have been particularly raised by US lawmakers and national security officials who say user data collected by the app could be accessible to the Chinese government.
Calls to ban TikTok from government devices gained momentum after FBI Director Christopher Wray said in November that it poses national security risks.
In March, Wray told a Senate intelligence committee that the Chinese government could use TikTok to monitor software on millions of devices and spread stories to divide Americans over Taiwan or other issues.
The app first came into focus in 2020 during the administration of Donald Trump, which sought to ban the short video app from US app stores and shut it down from vital tech services.
Which Countries Restrict TikTok?
In February, the White House gave federal agencies one month to remove the app from all government-owned devices.
Earlier this month, the Joe Biden administration backed a bipartisan bill that would give Washington the power to ban TikTok in the US.
Several states, including Wisconsin and North Carolina, have banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices.
In February, Canada also banned the use of the app on government-issued devices. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hoped Canadians, from businesses to individuals, “will think about the security of their own data and maybe make choices.”
Denmark, Belgium, India, Taiwan and several European Union institutions, such as the European Parliament, have taken similar steps.
Jordan banned the app in December 2022, citing TikTok’s failure to remove posts that “incite violence and chaos” following protests in the country.
In 2019, India and Pakistan banned it due to “morality issues”, with both bans revoked after a while. India banned the app again in June 2020 as tensions between China and India rose.
What does TikTok say?
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the US Congress on Thursday. In a written statement posted by the US Congress ahead of his testimony, he said the company has never and never will share US user data with the Chinese government.
He said ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity. According to him, 60 percent of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors, including Blackrock, General Atlantic and Sequoia, about 20 percent by the company’s founders, and about 20 percent by its employees “which include thousands of Americans.”
Earlier this month, TikTok expressed disappointment with the White House’s decision to support the Senate bill to ban the app.
How has China responded?
Beijing has accused Washington of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok.
Earlier this month, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the US has yet to provide evidence that TikTok threatens its national security and used the excuse of data security to abuse its power to suppress foreign companies.
“Data security issues should not be used as a tool for some countries to exaggerate the concept of national security, abuse state power and unjustifiably suppress other countries’ enterprises,” he said.