Why US Government is banning TikTok?

Legislation targets TikTok's alleged security risks, challenging free speech. ByteDance faces ultimatum or removal; constitutional concerns arise.

By Abhishek Chandel
New Update
Why US Government is banning TikTok

Why US Government is banning TikTok

The US government is taking aggressive action to ban the popular video app TikTok over growing national security worries about its Chinese ownership. New legislation being rushed through Congress seeks to force TikTok's parent company ByteDance to divest or face a total ban nationwide. At the core of these efforts are concerns that China's extensive surveillance powers could enable it to access private user data and information from Americans on TikTok.

Crackdown on "Foreign Adversary" Apps

If passed, this bill would seriously crack down on TikTok and other apps deemed security risks due to ties to adversaries like China. As CNN reports, "It doesn't stop there. The bill lays out similar restrictions for any app allegedly controlled by foreign adversaries, such as China, Iran, Russia, or North Korea."

The proposed legislation does not stop at mandating ByteDance divest from TikTok. It would additionally permit imposing colossal penalties reaching into the hundreds of billions of dollars against app stores like Apple's and Google's app marketplaces if they defied a ban by continuing to offer prohibited platforms such as TikTok.

Driving this legislative effort are concerns that China's authoritarian government could potentially leverage its far-reaching surveillance and data laws to compel the Beijing-based ByteDance to provide access to private user information and data from Americans on TikTok. While no evidence proves this data theft is happening, the risk remains a "seriously troubling hypothetical scenario," according to cybersecurity experts cited by CNN.

Reviving Past Efforts to Ban TikTok

Trump defends TikTok against 'enemy' Meta - ReadWrite
Credit: readwrite.com

This is not the first attempt by U.S. policymakers to restrict or ban TikTok's operations. During the presidency of Trump, he also issued executive orders to force ByteDance to sell off the TikTok platform. However, those unilateral actions faced legal challenges that prevented their implementation at the time. This new bill directly gives such presidential authority in a way that proponents like Rep. Mike Gallagher say should survive legal scrutiny after "consulting officials to ensure it can withstand a challenge."

Unsurprisingly, TikTok is fighting back against the "attack on free expression." The company launched an in-app campaign urging users to call representatives opposing the "attempt to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional rights," as CNN reported TikTok stating.

But civil liberties groups like the ACLU also caution about censorship concerns, with the ACLU's Jenna Leventoff stating "there's no denying" the bill would censor speech, according to CNN.

Uncertain Path Forward Amid Hurdles

The bill faces other hurdles too, like uncertainty around Senate approval with no companion bill yet. And First Amendment experts like litigator Ken White warn that claims of "foreign influence" may not override free speech protections, telling CNN, "'Foreign influence' aren't magic words that get you out of First Amendment problems."

As TikTok's fate becomes a high-stakes clash over security, business and civil liberties, the app and lawmakers are squaring off in an intensifying debate with huge implications. It remains to be seen how this all plays out as the House moves for a full vote as soon as next.

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