A group of Japanese lawmakers is seeking to restrict the use of TikTok and other apps developed by Chinese firms, following in the footstep of India, which has already blocked dozens of Chinese apps, and the U.S., which is floating the idea of a ban.
The decision was first reported by Japanese national broadcaster NHK. The lawyers shared the same concern as officials in the U.S. and India that their domestic user data could end up in the hands of Beijing, and planned to submit the proposal to the Japanese government as early as September.
Japan was one of TikTok’s first overseas success cases despite being considered a tough nut for foreign internet firms to crack. The nascent localization team went all out to attract celebrity users and made its breakthrough with Kinoshita Yukina, a TV personality, after holding “six or seven rounds of discussions” with her studio. Kinoshita’s participation ushered in other stars, who brought with them flocks of fans to the platform.
In the Japanese iOS store, TikTok has consistently ranked at the top among entertainment apps and is the fifth-most downloaded app across all categories in the country as of this writing, according to research firm App Annie.
In response to scrutiny coming from Japan, a TikTok spokesperson reiterated the app’s distance from Chinese control in a statement to TechCrunch:
“There’s a lot of misinformation about TikTok out there. TikTok has an American CEO, a Chief Information Security Officer with decades of industry, U.S. military and law enforcement experience, and a U.S. team that works diligently to develop a best-in-class security infrastructure. Four of our parent company’s five board seats are controlled by some of the world’s best-respected global investors. TikTok U.S/ user data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore, with strict controls on employee access.”
Other Chinese tech giants have had their eyes locked on Japan for years. Baidu, for instance, operates Simeji, one of the most popular input methods among Japanese. Line is the main chat app in the country, but WeChat is essential to Japanese businesses with Chinese ties — which there are many, given China is Japan’s main trade partner. While the Indian ban is certainly a debacle for Chinese developers coveting the fastest-growing internet market, the country’s ARPU, or average revenue per user, also remains low compared to numbers in the West. Japan, on the other hand, is a much more lucrative market.