Is Time Up On TikTok? Bill That Could Ban The App Gains Traction

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The House has approved a bill that could potentially ban TikTok in the US.

According to the Associated Press, US lawmakers have voiced serious concerns over the app’s potential to negatively impact and surveil American citizens.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved of a bill that gives ByteDance, the China-based company that owns TikTok, 165 days to relinquish ownership of the app. The bill will also simplify the executive branch’s process to restrict access to apps run by America’s foreign adversaries. If not, TikTok will be banned in The States.

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act was first introduced on Tuesday (Mar. 5) by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.). PAFACA will ensure that the app is blocked from application stores such as Apple and Google.

“This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” Gallagher said in a statement. “America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States. TikTok’s time in the United States is over unless it ends its relationship with CCP-controlled ByteDance.”

“So long as it is owned by ByteDance and thus required to collaborate with the CCP, TikTok poses critical threats to our national security,” Krishnamoorthi stated. “Our bipartisan legislation would protect American social media users by driving the divestment of foreign adversary-controlled apps to ensure that Americans are protected from the digital surveillance and influence operations of regimes that could weaponize their personal data against them. Whether it’s Russia or the CCP, this bill ensures the President has the tools he needs to press dangerous apps to divest and defend Americans’ security and privacy against our adversaries.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the committee’s Republican chair, also spoke on the matter. According to the outlet, Rodgers referred to TikTok as a potential “Chinese propaganda tool.” She also reminded people that ByteDance is currently under investigation for surveilling American journalists.

“Through this access, the app is able to collect nearly every data point imaginable, from people’s location, to what they search on their devices, who they are connecting with, and other forms of sensitive information,” Rodgers stated.

On Thursday (Mar. 7), TikTok responded to Congress’ introduction of PAFACA. ByteDance sent out widget alerts in the application urging American users to act against the legislation. “Stop a TikTok shutdown” the bumper read. “Let Congress know what TikTok means to you and tell them to vote NO.” After the House’s unanimous vote, TikTok issued a statement regarding the US’ attempt to ban the app on American soil.

“This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States. The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2023 in Washington, DC. The hearing was a rare opportunity for lawmakers to question the leader of the short-form social media video app about the company’s relationship with its Chinese owner, ByteDance, and how they handle users’ sensitive personal data. Some local, state and federal government agencies have been banning use of TikTok by employees, citing concerns about national security.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also responded to the House’s bill to ban TikTok. They referred to the legislation as a means of “trampling” on the First Amendment.

“We’re deeply disappointed that our leaders are once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year,” Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “Just because the bill sponsors claim that banning TikTok isn’t about suppressing speech, there’s no denying that it would do just that. We strongly urge legislators to vote no on this unconstitutional bill.”

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