A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll has revealed that a majority of Americans believe China uses TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned short-video app, to shape public opinion in the United States. The poll, conducted as Washington moves closer to potentially banning the app, found that 58% of respondents agreed with the statement that the Chinese government uses TikTok to "influence American public opinion." Only 13% disagreed, while the rest were unsure or did not answer the question.

The poll results come amid growing concerns over TikTok's data security and its ties to the Chinese government. Despite TikTok's claims that it has spent more than $1.5 billion on data security efforts and would not share data on its 170 million U.S. users with the Chinese government, skepticism remains high among the American public and lawmakers.

President Joe Biden last week signed legislation giving ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, 270 days to divest the app's U.S. assets or face a ban. TikTok has vowed to challenge the ban as a violation of the First Amendment's protections of free expression, and TikTok users are expected to take legal action, similar to a case in Montana where a judge blocked a state ban on the app, citing free-speech concerns.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also found that 50% of Americans supported banning TikTok, while 32% opposed a ban, and the rest were unsure. Support for a ban was higher among older respondents, with about six in 10 poll respondents aged 40 and older supporting a ban, compared to about four in 10 aged 18-39. The poll only surveyed U.S. adults and does not reflect the views of people under age 18, who make up a significant portion of TikTok's user base in the United States.

In addition to concerns over Chinese influence, 46% of Americans agreed with a statement that China is using the app to "spy on everyday Americans," an allegation that Beijing has denied. Despite these concerns, TikTok remains ubiquitous in America, with even President Biden's re-election campaign using the app as a tool to win over voters ahead of the November 5 presidential election. However, a majority of Americans (60%) said it was inappropriate for U.S. political candidates to use TikTok to promote their campaigns.

The signing of the divestment-or-ban legislation by President Biden sets a January 19 deadline for a sale, which is one day before his term is set to expire. However, he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines that ByteDance is making progress on divesting the app.

As the future of TikTok in the United States hangs in the balance, the app's Chinese roots continue to be a point of contention and concern for many Americans. The Reuters/Ipsos poll, which was conducted online and gathered responses from 1,022 U.S. adults nationwide with a margin of error of about 3 percentage points, highlights the growing public perception of TikTok as a tool for Chinese influence and espionage.

The TikTok saga has also raised questions about the future of other Chinese tech companies seeking to expand globally. As political tensions between the United States and China continue to escalate, the scrutiny and skepticism surrounding Chinese-owned technology companies are likely to persist, regardless of their efforts to address data security concerns and distance themselves from the Chinese government.