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Anonymous hackers target TikTok, urge users to delete ‘Chinese spyware’

After India’s TikTok ban earlier this week too, the app's global domination looks at risk

Anonymous, the worldwide hacktivist collective that’s gone after Isis, rapists, Donald Trump, and the Ku Klux Klan, has officially condemned video sharing app, TikTok.

“Delete TikTok now,” the group’s account tweeted yesterday (July 1). “If you know someone that is using it, explain to them that it is essentially malware operated by the Chinese government running a massive spying operation.”

The account, which has 6.4 million followers, also linked to a story detailed on a Reddit post from an engineer who claimed to have “reverse engineered” TikTok to find a host of security and privacy abuses. There’s yet to be substanstantial proof as to the validity of these claims.

According to Anonymous, “TikTok is harvesting data on children/teens to monitor their market reach and political development, to find the best methodologies to coerce them within the next five to ten years. This gives China an upper hand on manipulating large swaths of society across several countries”.

The news comes after it was announced that India is banning 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, citing national security concerns. India’s Ministry of Information Technology said in a statement that the Chinese apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner”.

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement added.

TikTok is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, which has come under scrutiny by the US government in recent years over its ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Previously, the app’s been criticised for its strict censorship towards Black creators, as well as those deemed “ugly, poor, or disabled”.

In September 2019, it was revealed that TikTok censored LGBTQ+ content in certain countries, blocking videos promoting gay rights in places where homosexuality has never been illegal. The following month, the app was forced to apologise after banning a 17-year-old from the platform after she criticised China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.

Although a number of users have been blocked without warning, most ‘rule breakers’ won’t ever receive a proper explanation for their punishment.