(TibetanReview.net, Aug25’20) –As the Chinese social media company TikTok fights for its right to operate in the USA, including by launching a court case, a popular English language news app it had acquired from its original founders in France in 2017 has been alleged to censor references to Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and other key words deemed offensive by the Chinese government and therefore politically sensitive by the app’s Chinese owners.
The Telegraph reported in its Aug 24 edition that the news aggregator, News Republic, “filtered tens of thousands of news stories every day,” removing any mention of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, or “freedom of the press”. It added that the news app was now “shuttered in US markets.”
The Telegraph quoted an anonymous source as saying the news company had “a blacklist of topics that its algorithmic news aggregator was prohibited from sharing.”
The News Republic app was downloaded by some 5 million people in the US and UK since its inception in 2014 and was bought by Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company in China, for $86m in 2017. It uses an algorithm to display headlines on the basis of users’ interests but censors contents disapproved of by the Chinese government.
TikTok itself has been downloaded more than 175 million times in the US whose President sees it as a threat to the country due to its subservience to the authority of the Chinese government.
On Aug 6, President Donald Trump issued a ban on US transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of video-sharing app TikTok, and Tencent, the owner of WeChat, citing a security threat posed by the transfer of data belonging to US citizens to China.
“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Trump said in his order.