The United States has recently intensified its scrutiny on TikTok, a Chinese-owned short-form video app that has gained massive popularity globally. The company is now in the spotlight due to concerns surrounding data privacy and national security, echoing the controversies that plagued Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE in recent years. In this article, we shall examine the ongoing issues involving TikTok and argue for a hard-line stance against companies like TikTok, Huawei, and ZTE within the Malaysian context.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based Byte Dance, has been under the microscope of US regulators due to the perceived risk it poses to national security. Much like Huawei and ZTE, the app’s meteoric rise has been met with scepticism and fear over the potential misuse of user data by the Chinese government. In response, the US government has been contemplating various measures, including imposing restrictions or even an outright ban on the app, as was done to Huawei and ZTE.

Huawei, a leading telecommunications company, and ZTE, a major smartphone manufacturer, have faced similar accusations from the US government. Both companies were accused of using their technology to spy on behalf of the Chinese government, ultimately leading to a ban on their products in the US market. The repercussions of these bans reverberated worldwide, with other countries, including Malaysia, also expressing concerns about the potential risks posed by these companies.

Given the growing body of evidence against Chinese tech companies and their potential threats to national security and data privacy, Malaysia should adopt a more hard-line stance against companies like TikTok, Huawei, and ZTE.

Firstly, Malaysia should consider imposing stricter regulations on the operations of these companies within the country, including banning or restricting the use of their products and services. This decisive action would send a clear message that Malaysia prioritizes the security of its citizens and the integrity of its digital infrastructure.

Secondly, Malaysia should collaborate with other like-minded countries to gather intelligence and share information regarding the potential risks posed by Chinese tech companies. This cooperative approach would ensure that any action taken is based on solid evidence and expert analysis.

Thirdly, Malaysia should invest in building local expertise in cybersecurity and digital forensics. By nurturing a strong pool of talent in these areas, the country would be better equipped to identify and respond to potential threats in a timely manner. This expertise would also help foster greater transparency and trust between the government, technology companies, and the general public.

Finally, Malaysia should focus on supporting and developing home-grown alternatives to platforms like TikTok, Huawei, and ZTE, thereby reducing reliance on foreign technology. By promoting local innovation and entrepreneurship, Malaysia can create a more self-reliant digital ecosystem, while also fostering job creation and economic growth.

The ongoing scrutiny of TikTok in the United States serves as a stark reminder of the challenges that come with an increasingly interconnected world. As Malaysia continues to embrace technology and digital innovation, it is essential to strike a balance between the benefits these platforms provide and the potential risks they pose. By adopting a hard-line stance against Chinese tech companies like TikTok, Huawei, and ZTE, Malaysia can protect its citizens, its national security, and its thriving digital economy from potential threats.

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