US TikTok ban “could embolden African governments”

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This week the US Home of Representatives handed a invoice that requires TikTok’s Chinese language proprietor ByteDance to promote the social media platform or face a ban within the US, in a transfer that consultants say might “embolden” African leaders to impose comparable restrictions on the continent’s fastest-growing platform.

Lawmakers in Washington have acted towards ByteDance over allegations that the China-based firm collects delicate person knowledge and censors content material deemed unacceptable by the Chinese language Communist Occasion – allegations which the corporate has constantly denied.

The invoice, which nonetheless must be cleared by the US Senate earlier than coming into drive, would bar app shops from internet hosting TikTok except it’s bought to an organization not primarily based in China.

Whereas it’s not but clear whether or not the invoice will go the Senate, the transfer might have essential ramifications for the corporate’s operations in Africa, the place it has proved equally controversial – though for various causes – regardless of rising to develop into the continent’s second most used platform after Fb.

TikTok’s African controversies

TikTok has confronted a critical backlash in Kenya, for instance, the place a petition known as for TikTok to be banned on the grounds inappropriate content material on the app was “eroding” Kenya’s cultural and non secular values. Whereas the corporate managed to keep away from an outright ban, TikTok was compelled to undertake stronger measures to take away offensive content material from the platform.

The platform has, nonetheless, been fully blocked in Senegal and Somalia, whereas there have been robust calls in Egypt and Uganda to comply with swimsuit.

Nevertheless, African governments’ distrust of TikTok has totally different roots to these of the US administration. Whereas US policymakers usually worry the nationwide safety implications of Chinese language possession of TikTok and its potential for China to entry US person knowledge, the scepticism of African governments is basically pushed by the uncontrolled nature of the platform and its content material.

Defenders of the app argue that TikTok is a sufferer of politically motivated choices and that, significantly within the circumstances of Senegal and Somalia, restrictions on its actions are a thinly veiled try to clamp down on free expression.

Rotimi Ogunyemi, a expertise lawyer primarily based in Lagos, equally argues that “within the US, actions towards TikTok are sometimes justified on nationwide safety grounds, inside a authorized framework that strongly protects free speech.”

“In distinction, some African governments have pursued bans or laws of digital platforms for political management or to suppress dissent […] this raises critical considerations about digital rights and freedom of expression.”

Mugambi Laibuta, an advocate of the Excessive Court docket of Kenya and professional in digital legislation, tells African Enterprise that the US transfer to ban TikTok might legitimise efforts to limit social media use in Africa.

“We’ve nations throughout Africa the place the usage of social media is successfully outlawed – there are crimes like digital defamation and misuse of pc methods which can be used towards content material creators. You typically discover this in Tanzania, whereas Fb is banned in Uganda, for instance,” he says.

“This transfer by the US could embolden nations throughout Africa contemplating comparable bans, by giving them a helpful reference level they will cite when attempting to ban TikTok or different social media platforms, often for political functions,” Laibuta provides.

Ogunyemi additionally fears that, ought to authorities in Africa be inspired to comply with the US instance, this might have unfavorable financial impacts given the fast charge of progress digital platforms are seeing.

“The digital economic system in Africa is rising, with younger entrepreneurs and content material creators leveraging platforms like TikTok for enterprise progress and innovation. Any transfer to ban such platforms should contemplate the financial implications and the potential to stifle the innovation driving sustainable developments throughout the continent,” he says.

“Outright bans will not be the simplest or fascinating strategy.”


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