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TikTok’s journey from social star to Trump target

It’s been a rollercoaster few years for TikTok, which saw the social media app rise to global prominence and into the crosshairs of the Trump administration.

[U.S. President Trump, saying:] "We're looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok.”

Let’s chart its journey.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese firm founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012 in his four-bed Beijing apartment.

The Chinese original app, Douyin, was established in 2016 - followed a year later by a global version, called TikTok.

Also in 2017, ByteDance acquired and eventually merged TikTok with U.S. app Musical.ly, integrating its signature lip-synching feature.

TikTok’s first run-in with authorities occurred in Indonesia in 2018 when it was banned for containing “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.”

The ban was lifted a week later after TikTok agreed to remove “all negative content”.

In 2019, ByteDance paid a $5.7 million fine to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

That was due to Musical.ly’s illegal collection of personal data from minors.

The app continued to be the subject of scrutiny.

Later that year, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. began reviewing TikTok’s purchase of Musical.ly.

But that didn’t stop it climbing the ranks of the social media world.

By April 2020, TikTok hit 2 billion downloads globally.

The following month saw it put former Walt Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer at the helm.

As its user base grew, so too did political concerns over security.

On June 29, TikTok and dozens of Chinese apps were banned in India, which cited security concerns - a move welcomed by the United States.

[U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying:] “I especially commend India's recent decision to ban 59 Chinese mobile apps, including TikTok, that present serious security risks for the Indian people.”

Australia and Japan scrutinized the app for privacy issues and foreign interference.

Not all world leaders shunned it.

July 20 marked the debut of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden.

But TikTok’s political profile really ramped up on July 31 when President Trump threatened to ban the app within 24 hours.

[U.S. President Donald Trump, saying:]: “We are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok."

Talks are now underway for Microsoft to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations.

[U.S. President Donald Trump, saying:] “TikTok is very successful. It does tremendous business in the United States. People are riveted by it.”