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Taiwan, on China’s Doorstep, Is Dealing With TikTok Its Own Way

As it is in the United States, TikTok is popular in Taiwan, used by a quarter of the island’s 23 million residents.

People post videos of themselves shopping for trendy clothes, dressing up as video game characters and playing pranks on their roommates. Influencers share their choreographed dances and debate whether the sticky rice dumplings are better in Taiwan’s north or south.

Taiwanese users of TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, are also served the kind of pro-China content that the U.S. Congress cited as a reason it passed a law that could result in a ban of TikTok in America.

One recent example is a video showing a Republican congressman, Rob Wittman of Virginia, stoking fears that a vote for the ruling party in Taiwan’s January election would prompt a flood of American weapons to aid the island democracy in a possible conflict with China, which claims it as part of its territory. The video was flagged as fake by a fact-checking organization, and TikTok took it down.

About 80 miles from China’s coast, Taiwan is particularly exposed to the possibility of TikTok’s being used as a source of geopolitical propaganda. Taiwan has been bombarded with digital disinformation for decades, much of it traced back to China.

But unlike Congress, the government in Taiwan is not contemplating legislation that could end in a ban of TikTok.

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