In late March, TikTok’s CEO stood before a U.S. congressional committee to defend the social media platform in the face of a possible ban. For over five hours, he fielded questions from Democrats and Republicans about TikTok’s privacy practices, its links to its parent company ByteDance, and other matters.
Not too long after, the U.S. Restrict Act was introduced as proposed legislation. If made into law, the Act would allow the government to ban apps and other technologies more easily if deemed a security threat. While TikTok is a high-profile case, presumably, other apps could also land on the chopping block. Here’s a look at some popular apps that could face bans or restrictions in the U.S. due to privacy and security concerns.
5 apps the U.S. could ban
Should a TikTok ban come into effect, the U.S. might scrutinize other apps that carry similar privacy concerns. Here are a few examples.
WeChat is an instant messaging, social media, and payment app developed by Tencent.
According to Apptopia, an analytics firm focusing on social media apps, the super app had about 19 million users in the U.S. in late 2020. It’s likely that people living in America use WeChat to communicate with those overseas or are recent arrivals to the U.S. and more accustomed to WeChat than other chat apps. It can also be a legitimate news source for some, such as during the aftermath of a shooting in a Shanghainese restaurant in Las Vegas’s Chinatown, as reported by Wired.
In 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting transactions with eight payment apps, including WeChat, alleging that these apps threaten national security. However, the order was blocked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler, who said more evidence was needed that the apps were security threats.
CapCut is a video-editing app developed by ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok. CapCut exists both as a standalone app and as an integration within TikTok. Users who edit their videos natively on TikTok are actually using CapCut’s editing functionality and music library.
Earlier this month, it was reported that CapCut hit a milestone of 200 million monthly active users. While CapCut’s fate is uncertain, it’s safe to assume that the app might also be scrutinized, given its parent company.
Shein is a fast-fashion online retailer peddling affordable clothes, accessories, and beauty products. Based on data from Business of Apps, the U.S. is one of Shein’s largest markets, followed by Brazil and Mexico. While discussions about the brand’s data collection and privacy have been minimal, the company is linked to multiple controversies.
Most recently, a coalition known as Shut Down Shein has been set up to educate Americans about the fashion brand and its alleged dodgy dealings.
Temu is an online marketplace selling everyday items at affordable prices. Based in the U.S., the e-commerce platform is a subsidiary of PDD Holdings, which owns Pinduoduo, a popular shopping app that’s come under fire for spying capabilities. Since its launch in September 2022, Temu has become one of the most downloaded apps in America, with over 24 million downloads.
Earlier this month, Google Play suspended Pinduoduo after Google found that versions of the app offered outside its app store contained malware. Temu remains available for download in the U.S., but it might be scrutinized.
Like Temu and Shein, AliExpress is an online marketplace popular among Americans for its affordable items. Owned by the Alibaba Group, the online retail giant garners over 2.7 billion worldwide visitors a month, according to Statista.
In the U.S., AliExpress has been compared to eBay. In 2022, the Office of the United States Trade Representative added the platform to its Notorious Marketplaces for Counterfeiting and Piracy list. Other apps on the list include WeChat, Taobao, Baidu, and DHGate.com.
FAQ: About U.S. app bans
Why is TikTok being banned in the U.S.?
TikTok is not yet banned in the U.S., although there are calls for such an action. U.S. government officials claim that TikTok is a national security threat due to the possibility of the company’s parent, ByteDance, handing over the data of American users to the Chinese government. The U.S. has also raised concerns about propaganda being spread via TikTok and the addictive qualities of the app, especially for young people.
What will happen to TikTok?
It’s currently unclear what the future holds for TikTok in the U.S. The U.S. government has requested that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, sell the app or risk a possible ban in the country.