Few tech companies have captured the public's attention faster than TikTok, which launched just five years ago and today is estimated to have more than 100 million users in the United States.
But as TikTok has become increasingly popular, it also increasingly faces threats -- political as well as legal.
Earlier this week, for instance, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr reiterated his view that the app, owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, should be outlawed in this country.
"I don’t believe there is a path forward for anything other than a ban," he said in an interview with Axios.
The Republican commissioner previously urged Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores. He is now specifically calling for the Council on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to take action.
Former President Donald Trump also issued an executive order that would have resulted in TikTok's ban, but the effort faltered in court. The current administration rescinded Trump's order, effectively replacing it with a directive to the Commerce Department to study threats posed by some foreign countries' data collection.
Republicans aren't the only ones to express concerns about the Chinese-owned TikTok.
In July, Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok over reports that employees in China accessed data about U.S. users of the service.
The lawmakers specifically referenced a BuzzFeed report that TikTok shares data with employees based in China, in apparent violation of earlier representations.
Advocacy group Public Citizen last week also urged the FTC to investigate TikTok, in response to a Forbes report that the tech company planned to use the app to track locations of at least two U.S. citizens.
“If disturbing allegations in the Forbes report are substantiated, the implications of such blatant abuses of user data by a foreign company are immense,” Public Citizen president Robert Weissman wrote.
“Unauthorized location monitoring is one of the most invasive and insidious data practices imaginable,” the letter says.
“While such surveillance is widespread, it is generally assumed that data surveillance companies have no interest in particular individuals; and reports that individuals might be able to use Big Data to make determinations about specific persons (for example, people who have sought abortion care) have sounded alarm bells,” Weissman added. “However, the Forbes article suggests something even more nefarious: That a major platform is using its vast data surveillance mechanism with the intent to track individuals.”
TikTok isn't just facing scrutiny over its data practices. The company is also being investigated by state attorneys general over how it promotes potentially harmful content to young users. TikTok, along with Snapchat, Instagram and others, also faces multiple lawsuits by teens and their families, who claim they were harmed as a result of “addictive” content on social media apps.
Last week, TikTok defeated one case brought by the mother of 10-year-old Nylah Anderson, who died while imitating "blackout challenge" videos, which show people strangling themselves.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a written ruling that TikTok was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That law immunizes web platforms from liability for publishing content created by users.
On Monday, the girl's mother, Tawainna Anderson, appealed Diamond's ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.