On April 4, the Australian government decided to greenlight banning TikTok from all federal-owned devices like smartphones and tablets. The ban will be enforced "as soon as practicable," according to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Australia is the last country in the so-called Five Eyes, an alliance of the intelligence services of the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, to implement such a ban. As our chart shows, only five countries worldwide have put a blanket ban on TikTok, located almost exclusively in Asia.
The most notable example is India. In 2019, the country banned the short-form video app for some time, allegedly due to concerns about spreading content unsafe for minors. This ban proved temporary, but in June 2020, India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, to curb the perceived spread of Chinese influence in the country. Other countries with general bans include Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Iran and Jordan. The latter plans to lift a temporary ban from December of 2022 instated in the aftermath of the death of a police officer at the hands of protesters at some point. Talks with TikTok's parent company ByteDance haven't yet led to a conclusive decision on the app's future in the country.
In the eyes of some U.S. lawmakers, the United States should join the countries banning the app not only from government-owned but also from private devices soon. While officials claim that it's unclear whether the Chinese government can extract and use data of Western TikTok users, which poses too big of a security risk, critics of the push for a blanket ban on TikTok argue that the motivations are either latent sinophobia or limiting China's soft power in a new Cold War. The appearance of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before Congress this past week did little to assuage the concerns of hardliners on this topic. Whether or not TikTok siphons off and, upon request, distributes more or less sensitive user data than its U.S. counterparts is unclear.