Thanks to a large influencer presence and creative content creators in the Middle East, TikTok has been continuously growing in popularity in the region, especially in the GCC countries.
Even before witnessing the boost caused by weeks-long lockdowns in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus outbreak last spring, TikTok has been one of the most popular online apps in the Arabic-speaking world, especially amongst young users. However, the current debate on whether the app will be shut down in the US after it was banned in India is inspiring lots of speculations on how it will be dealt with in the GCC.
Discussions over how secure the app is have started by an early report of Chinese surveillance over smartphone apps, but became more controversial for TikTok as it's the only one that achieved such global popularity.
Last month, India banned TikTok along with about 50 other Chinese-based apps which had a huge fan base in the country following border clashes that resulted in the death of several soldiers. By being shut down in India, the application that was downloaded over 2 billion, times lost its biggest audience; as 30% of its downloads took place in India.
India bans 47 apps cloning restricted Chinese services— Amit Paranjape (@aparanjape) July 27, 2020
"...new ban is aimed at those apps that were facilitating access to previously banned apps such as TikTok and Cam Scanner. The new apps to be banned includes Cam Scanner Advance."https://t.co/XSeneabn9L via @techcrunch
The US threat to ban the app, especially as it intensifies at a time the US-based tech giant Microsoft announces talks to acquire the application, is sparking a lot of questions on whether the main American motive is merely a security-related one, or if it's the danger the app's booming success is posing to US-based social media platforms.
Either way, the increased pressure on ByteDance is to either face losing its third-largest user base that is the US, or to sell its extremely successful app to the US company.
But, will the US be able to mobilize more countries to ban TikTok, like its Middle Eastern allies?
Despite no official statements commenting on the possibility of banning the application, news of more countries with close US ties considering similar steps is making the question more pressing than ever.
Last night, the Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported an attempt by a group of Japanese lawmakers to discuss a law to restrict access to the app in the country.
WHICH COUNTRY WILL BAN TIKTOK NEXT? (via @paddypower)— Sam Shead (@Sam_L_Shead) August 3, 2020
In Saudi Arabia, more than 11 million active users of TikTok were reported by April 2020. In the UAE, three top influencers have had an average of 6 million followers each; their videos have gathered millions of views in such a short time, making the app one of the most influential in the GCC region.
It remains unclear if GCC countries will be pressured to ban the app following in the steps of India, Japan, and of course the US.
Would you support a ban on TikTok in your country? Do you think the US security concerns are genuine or do you think they're more related to US tech hegemony?
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