TikTok makes a statement after a U.S. Congressional Committee approved advancing a bill to the President that, if signed, could make it easier to ban the social media app. TikTok’s statement decries the fast-tracking of the bill and suggests that the free speech rights of its American users would suffer as well as global TikTok users.
TikTok has seen increasing pressure from U.S. Government officials over the last few years as scrutiny of its parent company ByteDance and its relationship with the Chinese government could put the data of Americans at risk. Legislation was recently passed that saw TikTok banned from devices belonging to government officials. Colleges have either banned TikTok from being used on campus willingly, like the University of Mississippi, or are following laws enacted on the state level like the University of Texas at Austin.
A statement released by a spokesperson for TikTok expresses disappointment in the fast-tracked bill and asserts that TikTok is a U.S. company that abides by U.S. laws. The statement also purports that a ban on TikTok would be a ban on the export of American culture and impacts American free speech values. A further statement given to CNN claims that TikTok would rather see the passage of a national security bill that it crafted with the U.S. Government that it claims would address these concerns.
The bill introduced to U.S. Congress’s Foreign Affairs Committee is titled H.R. 1153 or the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act. The bill would give the Biden Administration power to sanction ByteDance if the company was found to have “knowingly transferred TikTok’s user data to any foreign person working for or under the influence of the Chinese government.” The bill would have levels of penalties that could see up to a nationwide ban of TikTok if evidence was found that ByteDance surrendered important information about Americans at the behest of the Chinese government.
Support for and against the bill is split mostly along party lines. While Republicans cite the possibility of ByteDance being pressured by the Chinese government to release sensitive data on or feed misinformation to Americans, Democrats believe the bill has moved through the process too quickly and may cause confusion and inadvertently put U.S. and European businesses at risk. The bill also supposedly encroaches and weakens the power of another law, the Berman Amendment of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, already on the books that prohibit the “free flow of information.”
A national ban on TikTok would affect millions of Americans, specifically, Gen Z-ers who use the platform not only for trendy dances and pranks, but pass along important information to each other. Though there is a growing risk of the Chinese government’s potential to negatively influence users, there is a fine line to walk that does not jeopardize the free speech of Americans.