Europe unlikely to ban TikTok, needs the app to check US hegemony: analysts
Published: Aug 05, 2020 06:28 PM

The logo of TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. Photo: VCG

European countries have expressed no intention of banning TikTok, by following the US' crackdown on the Chinese video-sharing app, a move analysts said is in line with the interests of Europe to counter the long-time hegemony of the US.

The UK and France have no plans to block TikTok, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing spokespersons for the governments. A German government official said the country has seen no sign that the app poses a security risk and has no plans to ban it.

Despite EU regulators stepping up scrutiny on TikTok's data privacy and safety as the EU is the strictest place in the world on data governance, it has not politicalized the issue as the US has done to suppress the company," Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based internet analyst, told the Global Times Wednesday.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) set up a task force in June to investigate TikTok's data processing activities and privacy practices across the EU.

TikTok is also under investigation in the UK for how it handles personal data of its young users, and whether it prioritizes the safety of children on its social network.

"European scrutiny has always been there. But it does not indicate that the video platform could be blocked there," said Liu.

On the contrary, Europe needs such a popular app in the region, which could help them compete with US tech monopolies such as Google and Facebook, Liu noted.

According to market consultancy firm Take Some Risk Inc, TikTok had 5.4 million monthly active users in the UK as of June 15, 4.4 million in France and 5.5 million in Germany.

"Most of Europe's internet businesses are well dominated by the US' tech giants, as the region lacks its own big firms to compete, which makes Europe feel very unsafe," Liu noted.

Wang Peng, assistant professor of the Gaoling School of Artificial Intelligence at the Renmin University of China, said that in the tech industry, including the internet industry, Europe and the US are divided, such as on issues like the digital tax that France plans to impose on US tech companies.

"If TikTok can move its overseas headquarters and main operations to Europe, it will be a boost to the internet industry in Europe," Wang told the Global Times Wednesday.

TikTok is weighing plans to open a headquarters in London, media reports said. About 80 percent of its employees in Europe, over 1,000 in total, are based in the UK and Ireland.

"TikTok's global presence will definitely be affected by the US blockade in the future. From the perspective of its overseas layout, it should pay more attention to the layout of markets in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and West Asia, which have great potential," said Wang.

"In the field of new internet technology, South Korea and Japan are very developed in terms of content. So it is unlikely the two countries will follow the US in blocking TikTok, but it will not be easy for TikTok to capture more market share there," Wang added.

The western Japanese city of Kobe made its official TikTok account private on Wednesday amid growing security concerns, according to Nikkei Asian Review.