Sunday, April 21, 2024

Lawmakers Move to Ban TikTok, Bill Heads to Upper Chamber

HomeTechLawmakers Move to Ban TikTok, Bill Heads to Upper Chamber

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a dramatic showdown between national security concerns and digital freedoms, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that could potentially ban the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok from operating in the country. The move has sparked a fierce lobbying battle, with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and its legion of creators mounting an all-out offensive to prevent the app’s potential demise.

The proposed legislation, dubbed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, aims to establish a framework for the President to designate certain social media apps under the control of foreign adversaries, such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, as national security threats. If TikTok is deemed a risk, it would face a ban unless ByteDance severs ties with entities controlled by the Chinese government within 180 days.

At the heart of the controversy lies the concern that the Chinese Communist Party could exploit TikTok to access personal data from its millions of U.S. users and manipulate the platform’s algorithms to influence public opinion, including in the upcoming presidential election. FBI Director Christopher Wray has openly testified about the potential risks posed by TikTok.

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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed grave concerns about the app’s ties to Beijing. My concern is about what TikTok has done in Taiwan, saying that the Uyghurs love their genocide and the people of Hong Kong love their voter suppression,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, referring to the app’s alleged censorship of content critical of China’s human rights record.

However, Pelosi also emphasized that the goal is not to outright ban TikTok but rather to ensure it is divested from Chinese government control. “We want TikTok to exist; we’re not here to ban it. I’ve said we want to make it Tik-Tok-Toe. We want to make it something that is not a fearful social media platform but one that is very positive.”

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As the vote nears, TikTok and its creators have launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to sway lawmakers and rally public support. The app has been sending push notifications and pop-ups urging users to contact their representatives, with the message: “Help stop the TikTok shutdown.

Outside the Capitol, a group of young Democratic lawmakers, including Robert Garcia, Sarah Jacobs, Maxwell Frost, and Delia Ramirez, joined TikTok creators in a vocal protest against the bill. Frost, a 27-year-old congressman from Florida, declared himself a “hell no” on the legislation, predicting that opposition would have grown if the vote had been delayed.

JT Laybourne, a prominent TikTok creator, expressed outrage at lawmakers mocking the app and its users, emphasizing the livelihoods that depend on the platform. “My voice is on TikTok. My purpose is on TikTok. That’s it. We can’t let this happen,” Laybourne pleaded.

Small business owners like Paul Tran and his wife, who run a skincare company called Love and Pebble, have also joined the fray, warning that a TikTok ban would shatter their dreams. “You will be destroying small businesses like us; this is our livelihood. We’ve created success,” Tran said, revealing that 90% of their business now comes from the app.

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Despite the fierce pushback, the bipartisan bill’s authors, Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), remain resolute in their belief that TikTok’s ties to China pose an unacceptable risk. “What we’re after is a separation from TikTok from its parent company, ByteDance, and by extension CCP,” Gallagher said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

As the vote looms, the fate of TikTok hangs in the balance, with lawmakers weighing the app’s potential national security risks against the digital freedoms and economic livelihoods it has enabled. The decision will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications, not only for the future of social media but also for the delicate balance between security and liberty in the digital age.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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