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A TikTok ban could be imminent in the US (for real this time)

It’s been talked about for years, but thanks to rising US-China tensions, the TikTok ban may finally become reality.

A person holds up a phone about to open the TikTok app as they show it to someone else.

While banning TikTok has already occurred at many schools and colleges across the United States, an American-wide ban could be next. The entertainment giant boasts 1 billion users or 12.8% of the world’s population, and is owned by a China-based parent company, ByteDance. 

As tensions with China continue to rise in the United States, government officials are becoming increasingly concerned with the type of data being shared with China, and worry it could become not only a propaganda machine but an issue of national security. Last week, the U.S. The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favor of a bill that could give President Joe Biden the ability to ban TikTok in the U.S. along with several other Chinese-owned apps. 

This bill, known as the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries (DATA) Act, was introduced Friday by Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), then fast-tracked to a vote on Wednesday, which passed 24-16; all Democrats unanimously opposed. (You can view the full bill here) This legislation would grant the president the power to enact sanctions, including bans, on any company that the Treasury Secretary deems “knowingly provides or may transfer sensitive personal data of persons subject to United States jurisdiction to any foreign person that is subject to the jurisdiction or direction” of China. The same applies to a foreign person or company that “is owned by, directly or indirectly controlled by, or is otherwise subject to the influence of China.”

The bill still has to pass through both the House and the Senate before it lands on Biden’s desk. While Biden has previously stated that he is unsure whether legislators would fully ban Tik Tok, The federal government, along with several state governments, have already banned the app on all government-issued devices. In the past week, Canadian and European governments have enacted similar measures and banned government staff from accessing Tik Tok on their work devices. 

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FBI director Christopher Wray shared his concerns over national security and TikTok. 

“Its parent company is controlled by the Chinese government. However, representatives at Tik Tok have repeatedly stated that Chinese government officials cannot access personal data, and Tik Tok would not hand it over even if asked.” Despite this, government officials across the world are worried ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, may have to unwillingly hand over the data. (An investigation last year revealed that engineers in China had access to American TikTok data as recently as January 2022)  It is important to remember, however, that TikTok Inc., which operates the platform in the United States is subject to all the same laws and regulations as any other American company. 

Furthermore, The American Civil Liberties Union feels that banning TikTok is a violation of free speech and constitutional rights for millions of American users. “Congress must not censor entire platforms and strip Americans of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression,” American Civil Liberties Union senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff said in a statement. “Whether we’re discussing the news of the day, live streaming protests, or ??even watching cat videos, we have a right to use TikTok and other platforms to exchange our thoughts, ideas, and opinions with people around the country and around the world.”

Leventoff called the bill “vague, overbroad and unconstitutional.”  Of course, American-based TikTok is not pleased with this new legislation either. “A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide,” said TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter in a previous statement. “We’re disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward, despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok. 

DanceByte has attempted to rectify the situation by rerouting all data to the American-based Oracle services and deleting all American data. but that has done l

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little to assuage the fears and suspicions of the United States government. 

ByteDance will testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss TikTok’s ties to China, their influence on children, and concerns regarding privacy, in a last-ditch effort to prevent a total ban. They are set to testify on March 23, 2023.

For now, the fate of TikTok hangs in the balance.

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Nicole is a recent graduate (okay fine, a recent-ish graduate) of Texas State University-San Marcos where she received a BA in Psychology. When she's not doing freelance writing, she's doing freelance Public Relations. When she's not working, she's hanging out with dogs or her friends - in that order. Nicole watches way too much Netflix and is always quoting The Office. She has an obsession with true crime and sloths.

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