TikTok Comes Under Fire

A phone on a charger next to a speaker. The TikTok logo is on the screen of the phone.
TikTok is used by about two thirds of American teens. (source)

TikTok, a popular video sharing app, is potentially dangerous according to some Western governments. Government employees in the United States, Canada, and Denmark, have been told they must remove TikTok from their government-issued phones. American politicians are also preparing a law that would help President Biden to ban TikTok nationwide if he chooses to do so.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Critics say that the Chinese government could use data collected by the app, or that the app could be used to spread propaganda or misinformation. By law in China, companies have to supply data to the government if it is related to national security.

Researchers say that the amount of data collected by TikTok is not different from that collected by Facebook, and this raises the question, is the targeting of TikTok xenophobic? Moreover, would it make more sense to restrict the collection of data by all social media companies?

The Chinese government reacted strongly to the recent moves against TikTok. They accused the US of abusing its power to help American companies. China, however, banned American social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube long ago.

Sources: apnews.com, apnews.com, apnews.com, theguardian.com

For source links, see the article on ESLNewsStories.com

Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Come under fire (idiom) - to be criticized
  • Potentially (adv) - something that could happen, possibly
  • Ban (v) - to say that something is officially not allowed
  • Nationwide (adj, adv) - everywhere in a country
  • Propaganda (n) - information like statements and images that support only one side of an argument, often political
  • Misinformation (n) - false information, especially when it is purposefully given
  • Xenophobic (adj) - disliking people from outside your own country
  • Restrict (v) - to limit
  • Accuse (v) - to claim someone has done something wrong
  • Abuse (v) - to use in a bad way


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What did you think about this story? Was there any surprising information?
  2. Do you have TikTok on your phone? Do you have other social media?
  3. What kinds of things do people see on TikTok? Why is it so popular?
  4. How important is privacy to you?
  5. What kinds of data do apps and websites collect from us? Do you care about this kind of data collection?
  6. Do you think that TikTok is potentially dangerous to national security?
  7. What do you think about the relationship between the United States and China?
  8. Should foreign social media companies be allowed in China?
  9. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. How can we identify accurate information?
  10. What are the pros and cons of social media?