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Bipartisan push to ban TikTok is a dangerous move toward censorship

Alicia Bruce / Ronnie Bruce
Alicia Bruce Ronnie Bruce | Medium

In a rare display of bipartisan unity, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR 7521, Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, by a vote of 352-65. If passed by the Senate and President Joe Biden, the implications of this bill are far-reaching, serving as a tool for censorship and limiting free speech and expression.

This legislation, proposed by Rep. Mike Gallagher and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, targets the popular social media app, TikTok, and could potentially lead to its ban.

The bill seeks to compel ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to sell the app to a U.S.-approved entity within six months, citing concerns over national security threats due to ByteDance’s Chinese-based ownership.

Government officials worry about potential exploitation by the Chinese Communist Party, fearing TikTok could be used to gather sensitive user data and disseminate propaganda, though the U.S. government has failed to provide any proof of such happenings.

TikTok refuted these allegations and asserted its independence from any government entity and highlighted its efforts to safeguard user data through initiatives like Project Texas.

Through Project Texas, TikTok will create a new special-purpose subsidiary called TikTok U.S. Data Security, which will handle TikTok U.S. separately from the rest of the company’s operations.

All USDS leaders and employees would be thoroughly vetted and only report to an independent board of directors, each with a strong background in U.S. national security and highly respected in their field.

TikTok claims Project Texas would provide full transparency and accountability to the U.S. government, while not forcing diversion from ByteDance.

However, this plan has been under review for years by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Nevertheless, while there are still debates about TikTok’s connection to China and the validity of national security and data privacy concerns, the economic and political implications of this bill are of more significance.

According to a report from New Economics, TikTok contributed $24.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2023.

Moreover, it was found that small or midsized businesses that marketed or advertised on TikTok generated nearly $15 billion in revenue in 2023, thus allowing them to grow organically and support over 224,000 jobs.

Likewise, through content creation opportunities on TikTok, several Americans have been able to generate new income streams and build wealth.

Most notably, it is important to consider the broad language of this bill and how it sets a dangerous precedent that not only threatens free speech but also empowers the U.S. government to ban any app they deem to be a threat, due to its connections to a foreign adversary.

Though this language is geared toward TikTok, it can be applied to so much more. This can be Chinese-owned apps, like AliExpress or WeChat, or even American-owned apps such as  Instagram, Netflix, Snapchat and Google Maps, if foreign investment or relations concerns come into play in the future.

“One of the key differences between us and those adversaries is the fact that they shut down newspapers, broadcast stations, and social media platforms. We do not,” Rep. Jim Himes said. “We trust our citizens to be worthy of their democracy. We do not trust our government to decide what information they may or may not see.”

With the current global issues, social media apps, like TikTok, have become powerful communication tools through which Americans can voice their opinions, educate, advocate and rally for change.

If there were a ban, while this rhetoric would still transfer onto a new platform, the language of this bill allows Congress to target these platforms as well.“The answer to authoritarianism is not more authoritarianism,” Rep. Tom McClintock said. “The answer to CCP-style propaganda is not CCP-style oppression. Let us slow down before we blunder down this very steep and slippery slope.”

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