TikTok: To Ban or Not to Ban?

On Wednesday, March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban TikTok nationwide if current owner ByteDance Ltd., headquartered in Beijing, China, refuses to sell its stake in the company. The legislation stems from lawmakers’ concerns about Chinese government officials gaining unsolicited access to users’ data as well as other reservations regarding citizens’ privacy.

The bipartisan proposal passed by a vote of 352-65, with 197 Republican and 155 Democratic politicians expressing their endorsement. On the contrary, 15 right-wing and 50 left-wing leaders opposed the motion.

The reason that some politicians chose to counter the bill was on account of their belief that the U.S. should warn about the app’s data privacy and propaganda concerns, however, allow consumers to run that risk at their own choice.

While the proposition received a favorable response in the House, it must also obtain a majority vote in the Senate to become law, though the likelihood of such an outcome is unclear. Since there is no set date for the upper chamber of Congress to consider the measure, its end result remains ambiguous.

In spite of opposing opinions among legislators, the bill has secured support from President Joe Biden, who, according to the Associated Press, plans to sign his approval if it passes the Senate.

The motion mirrors the objective of the deal brokered by the Trump administration in 2020 that would have handed U.S. corporations Oracle and Walmart partial ownership in TikTok for the sake of strengthening national security, as this executive effort was dismissed in court amidst the chaos caused by 2020 presidential election campaigns.

Regardless of the proposal’s performance in the Senate, the House vote highlights ongoing tensions between China and the U.S. Although American lawmakers have targeted TikTok to confront what they consider a national security threat, they have simultaneously faced some pressures to tread lightly given the platform’s popularity among millions of users, many of whom are part of a younger audience.

“There will be much disappointment among younger voters to start with if TikTok is banned, particularly if it is not purchased by an American company,” said Dr. Gary Rose, Scholar in Residence. “I don’t believe this will be long-term. Many college students on TikTok will likely find the ban disruptive but they will adjust. I also believe that college students are now starting to understand the threat that TikTok and China pose to our national security.”

“This is a real rather than a fabricated concern,” Rose said.

Despite speculation that it is involved in perpetuating the invasion of personal privacy, TikTok has regularly denied allegations of being a Chinese government tool, according to the Associated Press. Further, the U.S. government has failed to provide sufficient evidence showing that the app shared such information with Chinese authorities.

Just as the validity of claims citing TikTok’s violation of security is debated, students differ in opinion on whether the app is safe and the implications as well as the impact that a ban would bring about.

“I think the ban would be problematic because of the fact that lots of students use the platform as a side job,” said junior Darcy Fruhschein.

“I think the ban would be beneficial as it would take away a big distraction from society,” said junior Chris Escudero.

Whether one deems the bill an opportunity or obstacle, the weight of its importance is commonly understood.

“I scroll through TikTok on a daily basis to watch videos from my friends and accounts I follow, so the app being taken away would definitely be an adjustment,” said junior Kate Fleissner. “If TikTok is banned, the whole world will be affected.”

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