Top Gamer Ninja Deletes TikTok Over Privacy Concerns

Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Gamers' Choice Awards
Tyler "Ninja" Blevins

The Chinese-owned short-video social network is having a summer to forget as major social media influencers begin to look for alternatives.

TikTok's recent streak of bad news continued Thursday when elite gamer and YouTuber Tyler "Ninja" Blevins tweeted that he had deleted the China-based app over privacy concerns.

"I have deleted the TikTok app off all my devices. Hopefully a less intrusive company (data farming) that isn't owned by China can recreate the concept legally, such funny and amazing content on the app from influencers,” Ninja tweeted to his 6 million followers. He didn't, however, delete his TikTok account, which as of Thursday night was still active.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to TikTok for comment.

The rejection of a highly influential gamer like Ninja is the latest blow to TikTok in what is becoming a summer to forget for the company and a stark counterpoint to the rapid growth that saw it hit 1 billion users in just over two years. The short-video social network, owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, has long been dogged by privacy concerns and whether the Chinese government has access to user data. The company has consistently denied any links to Chinese state actors and says user data is safe.

Despite its protestations, TikTok is reeling from a cascade of global events. Last month, India's government banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps citing privacy and national security issues, a move prompted by a deadly Himalayan border clash between the two countries.

The ban in India is a huge setback for TikTok as it had well over 200 million users and was growing rapidly, with the country accounting for 30 percent of all global downloads. Some China-based reports say that ByteDance could lose as much as $6 billion following the India ban.

There have been intermittent calls for the U.S. to follow India and ban TikTok, and this movement was given impetus by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a Fox News interview this week. In the interview, Pompeo suggested the U.S. government is currently "looking at" a ban on Chinese social media apps with the focus on TikTok. "With respect to Chinese apps on people's cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too," Pompeo said in an interview on Monday's episode of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle. "I don't want to get out in front of the president, but it's something we're looking at."

Pompeo added that people should only download TikTok "if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."

The Australian government is also mulling over a TikTok ban, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying this week that it's "right for people to have an increased awareness of where these platforms originate and the risks they present."

Seeking to staunch accusations of its closeness to the Chinese government, on Monday TikTok pulled out of Hong Kong because of privacy concerns over a new National Security Law passed in the territory. TikTok went further than its tech rivals in rejecting possible requests for user information from Hong Kong police, but the company only had 150,000 users in that market.

TikTok's woes and uncertain future is providing an opportunity for its rivals. This week Instagram's TikTok-like short-video platform Reels went live in India, Brazil, France and Germany, with further expansion imminent.