U.S. Tiktok ban may become a reality
Two lawmakers from the United States Congress have filed a bill to enact a U.S. ban on popular Chinese social media app Tiktok. The new bill comes after a similar one to ban the app was filed during the last Congressional session, but not considered by either chamber.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Colorado Congressman Ken Buck, both from the Republican party, filed the No Tiktok on the United States Devices Act on Wednesday, January 25. The act would ban access to the app on all devices in the US should it be passed. However, the bill faces pushback from a divided Congress in the coming weeks.
Chinese company ByteDance launched Tiktok back in 2016. The company and its app have faced criticism from U.S. government officials who say the app constitutes a security risk as it may give the Chinese government access to American data.
Recently, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray warned that Beijing could be using Tiktok to control or influence users’ devices. Speaking at the Josh Rosenthal Education Fund Lecture last month, he told students that Tiktok “gives [the Chinese government] the potential to leverage the app in ways that I think should concern us.”
He further added that Beijing can both control the recommendation algorithm on Tiktok to influence users as well as collect user data “for traditional espionage operations.” This is on top of engaging in “malicious cyber activity” through the app. (Read: TikTok illegally tracked Android user data in latest privacy issue)
“And so all of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interest of the United States that that should concern us,” Wray added.
Meanwhile, Sen. Hawley argued for his bill in a Twitter post on Tuesday, Jan. 23, stating that the app was “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives.” He added that Tiktok “threatens our children’s privacy as well as their mental health. Last month Congress banned it on all government devices. Now I will introduce legislation to ban it nationwide.”
State governments in 28 states have already banned the app from use in state-issues devices. It’s also facing a blanket ban across all federal employees that would prohibit them from downloading and using Tiktok on government-owned devices.
More recently, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill last month that included a measure to ban Tiktok on all devices used by the executive branch of government.
In an email response to tech blog Gizmodo, a Tiktok spokesperson stated that Hawley’s approach to ban the app was not the correct one.
“Senator Hawley’s call for a total ban of TikTok takes a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues like data security, privacy, and online harms,” the spokesperson said. “We hope that he will focus his energies on efforts to address those issues holistically, rather than pretending that banning a single service would solve any of the problems he’s concerned about or make Americans any safer.”
The spokesperson also brought up the fact that Tiktok has been in talks with the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment for two years to address national security concerns. These concerns included “corporate governance, content recommendation and moderation, data security, and system access … to ensure that there are no backdoors into TikTok that could be used to manipulate the platform.”
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