Is TikTok Really Getting Banned in the U.S.?

March 26, 2024

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that could ban TikTok if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, doesn’t sell the app within six months.

So why are people alleging that it’s soon going to be completely defunct? If Chinese owner refuses to sell, that would effectively cause a ban.

Photo by KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA

Two members of the House of Representatives, Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), introduced “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” because TikTok is currently owned by Chinese tech giant, ByteDance. It passed the House 352 to 65 and is now off to the Senate.

Representatives on both sides of the aisle came together on this issue under the contention of being hard on foreign affairs. The bipartisan support is also due, in part, to fear of what content is being pushed to TikTok users based on “the algorithm.”

Some people, however, argue the bill is more about control than security. They say it sets a precedent for the government to ban other foreign-owned apps, potentially limiting internet freedom.

On the surface, the law makes sense; it can be dangerous to have intimate user data (and user tracking) controlled by a somebody else. Nor is the U.S. the first country to outlaw the app; India did it in 2020, citing the same security concerns. In England, Australia, New Zealand, the E.U. and France; TikTok is not allowed on any official government devices. The same is true for many American states, and the military.

Some critics of this bill, however, worry about censorship under this law, particularly because of the precedent it would set.

Others are concerned about what social media to use next; and where they’re going to find new music and shows and books to consume without their favorite creators feeding it to them. Influencers on the Creator’s Fund are worried about their income source, too. Still others simply prefer not to spend more time (and give more money) to Mark Zuckerberg, who owns Meta and therefore several popular social media platforms that would likely replace TikTok in people’s lives—and on their phones. That means giving more data to Meta, too.

Overall, though, opponents are mostly focused on their freedom of speech and association, which is protected under the First Amendment. They are also worried that this will set a precedent for the American government to pick and choose what we can do online, leading to more and more internet censorship—potentially, ultimately even only allowing government-approved content.

Proponents of the bill argue that the law would simply hold China to the same standards the U.S. faces, and that China itself restricts access to many foreign websites. Nevertheless, there are valid concerns therein about both national security and government overreach.

So what’s next for Americans’ data privacy rights? That’s up to the Senate.

Photo by cottonbro studio

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