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Monday May 20th

National security concerns may lead to TikTok ban in U.S.

<p><em>The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act is the latest move by Washington to respond to concerns that TikTok is a threat to national security due to the app being controlled by a foreign adversary (Photo courtesy of </em><a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NO_TikTok.png" target=""><em>Wikimedia Commons</em></a><em> / Leonel Sohns. July 9, 2020). </em></p>

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act is the latest move by Washington to respond to concerns that TikTok is a threat to national security due to the app being controlled by a foreign adversary (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Leonel Sohns. July 9, 2020). 

By Gauri Patel 
Staff Writer 

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on March 13 that gives TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, six months to divest the popular social media app or risk facing a nationwide ban, according to The Washington Post. 

The legislation, dubbed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, is the latest move by Washington to respond to concerns that TikTok is a threat to national security due to the app being controlled by a foreign adversary.

It was introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, according to The Washington Post. It was unanimously passed two days later by members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to advance to the full House. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 352-65 and will move forward to the Senate. 

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have expressed concerns over TikTok’s foreign ownership, warning that parent company ByteDance could share the personal information of the 170 million Americans who use the app with the Chinese government. A law passed in 2017 requires companies in China to hand over any personal data relevant to national security to Beijing. Although there is no evidence that TikTok has given such data, according to The Associated Press, fear stems from the vast amount of user data that would be compromised if the Chinese government demands access in the future. 

TikTok has denied allegations that it shares user data with the Chinese government. CEO Shou Zi Chew has also denied TikTok’s alleged connections to China in previous Senate hearings. In a short video clip shared to TikTok, Chew expressed his disappointment after the bill was passed in the House and vowed to persist in preventing it from being signed into law. 

“Over the last few years, we have invested to keep your data safe in our platform, free from outside manipulation; we have committed that we will continue to do so,” Chew said in the message, addressing the users of TikTok. “We will continue to do all we can, including exercising our legal rights to protect this amazing platform that we have built with you. We believe we can overcome this together.” 

TikTok has directly urged its users through pop-up messages on the app to contact lawmakers to express their opposition to the bill. Congressional offices have been inundated with calls from users demanding an end to their efforts, forcing offices to shut off their phones at times, according to The Associated Press. Those who supported the bill say this tactic backfired as it “provided members a preview of how the platform could be weaponized to inject disinformation into our system,” according to Gallagher. 

Despite the bill passing in the House, several lawmakers opposed the legislation, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) who said the bill was rushed and the public should be informed of national security concerns prior to a vote. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) also said that consumers should be informed of data privacy concerns, and they should have the freedom to make their own decisions, according to The Associated Press. There were also concerns that the ban could impact the economy in addition to entrepreneurs and small businesses that rely on the app to promote their products and services. 

President Joe Biden, who created a TikTok account in February as part of his re-election campaign, endorsed the legislation, saying that if the bill is passed, he will sign it. Meanwhile, former president and likely Republican nominee Donald Trump has spoken out against the ban, saying in an interview with CNBC that it would make Facebook’s parent company, Meta, a stronger company, which he considers an “enemy of the people.” 

The bill faces an uncertain path as it heads to the Senate, but prospects for its enactment into law appear likely after the two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), released a joint statement expressing their support for the bill, according to The Washington Post. 

“We were encouraged by today’s strong bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, and look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law,” Warner and Rubio said in the joint statement.

The legislation’s fate now rests in the Senate, where lawmakers will weigh TikTok’s national security concerns against considerations for the rights of users and the potential economic impacts of a ban before voting on the bill.




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