US legislators vote to ban TikTok unless it severs ties with China

SEI 195739711

TikTok faces a potential ban in the US

Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

US politicians have voted to ban popular video-sharing app TikTok unless its owner, technology company ByteDance, sells it.

The US House of Representatives voted by a margin of 352 to 65 to approve the app-restricting bill on 13 March. The legislation will require ByteDance, which has its headquarters in China but is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, to sell TikTok within six months due to concerns over the company’s links to China. The bill still needs to pass another vote in the US Senate before it heads to the desk of President Joe Biden, who previously told reporters he would sign it into law.

While a smaller committee was considering the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Controlled Applications Act” bill last week, TikTok users received notifications through the app encouraging them to contact their public representatives to protest the potential ban. Despite being bombarded with messages, legislators passed the bill through committee on 7 March, approving it for a full vote this week.

TikTok enthusiasts are not the only ones to oppose the bill. “The Protecting Americans from Foreign Controlled Applications Act is censorship, plain and simple,” says Kate Ruane of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit organisation that advocates for digital rights in the US. “It is fundamentally flawed and will operate, functionally, as a ban on TikTok in the United States.”

Despite such concerns, a cross-party consensus in the US fears China’s ruling Communist Party could compel TikTok to hand over user data to track behaviour. Although the app is only one of many online services that collects data about its users, the US and a number of other countries have classified TikTok as a “national security threat”, banning the app from being used on government devices held by public officials. However, no evidence has been presented by any nation to support those claims.

TikTok, which is run from offices in the US and the UK, among other countries, has always denied receiving any data-sharing requests from the Chinese government – and claims it would never hand over users’ information. However, Chinese law requires all companies operating in the country, including ByteDance, to accede to government requests.

TikTok itself has previously called the proposed bill contrary to the “First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans”, the number of app users in the US. That number also includes many of the politicians deliberating over TikTok’s fate, including Biden.

Tom Divon at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel says the debate over the app is “a peculiar dance of advocating for [TikTok’s] shutdown over data harvesting and surveillance fears – yet capitalising on its vast audience for campaign gains”. He believes politicians are putting political manoeuvring above real concerns and risks, such as alienating young voters who are more likely to use TikTok and increasing distrust in traditional media outlets.


Source link