Fact Check

Is TikTok Banned in China?

Douyin, China's version of TikTok, is available within the country.

Published Mar 23, 2023

Updated Mar 24, 2023
Claim:
TikTok is banned in China.
Context

TikTok has never been available in China, as the country has its own version of the app, called Douyin. Both apps are owned by the same Chinese company, ByteDance. Thus far, we've been unable to find definitive proof that TikTok is or is not officially banned in China.

In early March 2023, claims began to spread on social media platforms that TikTok is banned in China. A video was posted to Facebook on Feb. 17, 2023, that claimed the social media app had been banned from the country.

"Did you know that TikTok is also banned in China?" the video said. "Yes. See, here is a list of apps that are banned in China. So TikTok is even banned in China."

The claim also spread on Twitter, where writer Hank Green and conservative commenter Steven Crowder both posted that the app had been banned in the country. 

TikTok is not available in the country, and hasn't been since it was first launched in 2016. That said, there is no official evidence proving or disproving that China banned TikTok. As such, we rate the claim Unproven.

At the time of this publication, Chinese company ByteDance owned social media apps TikTok and Douyin. TikTok is available internationally, but you cannot find the app in the Chinese app store. Instead, you would find Douyin, which has been described as the country's domestic alternative to TikTok.

It is held on a different server than TikTok, which researchers have attributed to ByteDance complying with internet regulations by the Chinese government.

Douyin is available via the web. When we reviewed the website, we found that it was fully in Chinese and had an infrastructure similar to TikTok's, including the logo, as well as like and share icons. We found that we could fully view videos on the platform without an account. We could not verify whether the same videos are accessible on both platforms.

The Facebook video purporting to show a list of apps banned in China is false. It was actually a list of top non-gaming apps downloaded in September 2020, worldwide. While some apps on the list were banned in China at the time of publication, other apps like Zoom were available in the country.

The claims came around the same time that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress for the first time on March 23. According to Insider, at least 27 U.S. states have banned the app from government devices, and there have been calls for a nationwide ban because of national security concerns.

Other countries have already banned the app. India permanently banned TikTok in January 2021, while countries like Norway and Denmark have banned the app from work devices.

Sources

9 Questions about the Threats to Ban TikTok, Answered. 23 Mar. 2023, https://www.vox.com/recode/2023/3/2/23622149/tiktok-ban-questions.

Bhaimiya, Sawdah. "Here's a Full List of the US States That Have Introduced Full or Partial TikTok Bans on Government Devices over Mounting Security Concerns." Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/tiktok-banned-us-government-state-devices-2023-1. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.

Chan, Kelvin. "Here Are the Countries That Have Bans on TikTok." AP News, 1 Mar. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/tiktok-ban-privacy-cybersecurity-bytedance-china-2dce297f0aed056efe53309bbcd44a04.

Douyin - Android Apps on Google Play. https://play.google.com/store/search?q=douyin&c=apps. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.

Douyin - Apple. https://www.apple.com/us/search/douyin?src=serp. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.

NBC News. "TikTok CEO Doesn't Seem to Sway Congress as U.S. Considers a TikTok Ban." NBC News, 23 Mar. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/live-blog/tik-tok-ban-live-updates-rcna76003.

Restricted Countries or Regions. Zoom, https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/203806119-Restricted-countries-or-regions.

Tong, Scott and Pak, Jennifer. "The next TikTok Could Well Be on the Way to the U.S. before Long." Marketplace, 22 Sept. 2020, https://www.marketplace.org/2020/09/22/next-tiktok-could-well-be-on-way-to-us-before-long/.

Top Apps Worldwide for September 2020 by Downloads. https://sensortower.com/blog/top-apps-worldwide-september-2020-by-downloads. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.

Yu, Zizheng. "China: The Rise of TikTok Sister App Douyin as a Powerful Consumer Tool." The Conversation, 23 Mar. 2023, http://theconversation.com/china-the-rise-of-tiktok-sister-app-douyin-as-a-powerful-consumer-tool-201058.

Updates

Update [March 24, 2023]: We have revised the rating of this fact check from "False" to "Unproven" due to the lack of definitive evidence that TikTok has or has not been banned in China.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.

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