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Which countries have banned TikTok?

April 26, 2024

The United States and the European Union have restricted TikTok, but they aren't the first governments to do so. Even China itself has placed restrictions on the popular short-form video app.

The TikTok logo is seen on a cell phone on Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston
The popular video app TikTik, owned by a Chinese parent company, is facing restrictions around the worldImage: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo/picture alliance

The US Senate recently approved legislation that gives the short-form video app TikTok a nine-month deadline to either sell its US operations to an American company or face a nationwide ban. The reason: Chinese parent company ByteDance is allegedly subject to Chinese government influence, and may therefore pass on sensitive data from American citizens to the regime in Beijing.

ByteDance has denied the allegations, but the bill still became law on Wednesday when, following the Senate's approval, it was signed by President Joe Biden.

The TikTok discussions in Europe focus on a different aspect. EU authorities have argued that the app poses a high risk of addiction, especially for young users, and can also cause other forms of psychological damage. In response, the company has discontinued a reward function in the EU that had been part of the spinoff app TikTok Lite and which rewarded video views with gift certificates for real products.

Countries that have shut down or banned TikTok

China's neighbor, India, was among the first countries to have placed restrictions on TikTok and other Chinese apps. India banned some 60 Chinese apps, including TikTok, during a military confrontation along the Himalayan border that it shares with China. A permanent ban has been in place since 2020, with the stated justification being the data security of its citizens.

In contrast, moral concerns are what led the Taliban to ban the app in Afghanistan in 2022, roughly one year after it retook control of the country. The app is also not available to users in Iran. Within Iran, it's said TikTok has blocked Iranian IP addresses. For its part, however, the totalitarian regime in Tehran has blocked nearly all the major social media platforms such as YouTube, X, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook and Telegram. 

The TikTok app has also been banned for similar reasons by the governments of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Nepal and Somalia.

Countries with a partial TikTok ban

Nearly all the governments that have placed restrictions on TikTok say they have done so in order to protect their citizens from negative consequences such as data abuse, suspected false information and "enemy propaganda," as well as moral and psychological harm.

The app has therefore not been entirely banned in all cases. Pakistan, for instance, has temporarily blocked TikTok for inappropriate content on multiple occasions.

In most cases, the app was subsequently made available again once the company adjusted its filters to block the offending content.

For example, in Russia such content includes anything that presents the country's invasion of Ukraine in a different light than that of the official Kremlin narrative. And in China, the app is blocked on foreign devices, so that only the Chinese version can be used. 

Does Elon Musk want to make X the new TikTok?

Other countries have temporarily blocked TikTok, such as Azerbaijan in 2020, when the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh heated up, or Senegal in 2023, following the arrest of then-opposition politician Ousmane Sonko

Countries with TikTok restrictions for government officials

At present there are 16 countries, most of them in Europe, that have banned installing or using TikTok on government work cellphones.

The bans vary greatly in their reach. In the US and Canada, federal government employees have been prevented from installing the app on their work devices since early 2023, and most US states have introduced similar rules.

March 2023 brought a cascade of orders from governments, including in Australia and New Zealand, requiring their employees delete the app from their work phones. The same thing occurred in the UK, the Netherlands and Norway. In Denmark, the TikTok ban only applies to employees in the Defense Ministry, while in Latvia it's for workers in the Foreign Ministry.

Olaf Scholz holds his cell phone out as he and fellow Social Democrat Katarina Barley look at the screen together
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently joined TikTok, even as his government has mulled a partial banImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

TikTok in Germany

In Germany, the parties that make up the current government coalition (the Greens, the center-left Social Democrats and the neoliberal Free Democrats) are currently considering regulating TikTok or banning its use on federal government employee devices. The conservative Christian Democratic opposition has even pressed for a total ban.

However, there are currently no restrictions on TikTok in Germany. The far-right populist party Alternative for Germany has been particularly successful in using the app to target young voters.

This article was originally written in German.

DW-Redakteur Jan D. Walter Kommentarbild App PROVISORISCH
Jan D. Walter Editor and reporter for national and international politics and member of DW's fact-checking team.