The Biden administration’s recent demands that the Chinese owners of the popular short–video sharing app TikTok must sell their stakes in the company or face a nationwide ban has sparked debate over the legality of the move. With the White House citing national security concerns, some politicians have argued that the only way to protect US security is to either ban the app or force its Chinese owners to sell it to an American company. However, this move has been met with strong opposition from many quarters, with critics saying it would be a violation of free expression and could hinder education, especially in topics which may be discussed in a limited manner in real life, such as sexual education and education of gender identity, both of which are being severly censored in many states with conservative leaders such as Flordia trying to expand the Dont Say Gay bill to all grades.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a bill allowing President Biden to ban TikTok nationwide, although the measure is yet to be passed by the full House before POTUS can sign it into law. The Republican committee chair Michael McCaul has claimed that the Chinese government can influence TikTok’s recommendation algorithms and shape the content that American users see. He also alleges that the app poses a threat to US national security as it could give Beijing access to the data of its American users.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has come out strongly against a full–blown ban of TikTok, saying that it would “damage our allegiances across the globe, bring more companies into China’s sphere, destroy jobs here in the United States and undercut core American values of free speech and free enterprise”. The ACLU also argued that “restricting access to media is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes”, and urged Congress to “not censor entire platforms and strip Americans of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression”.
TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew has also testified before Congress that the Chinese–owned app “has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government”. The company also said that the move to ban the app on government–issued devices came “without any deliberation”, and that bans like this “have served as a blueprint for other world governments”.
The proposed ban of TikTok has raised serious concerns about the violation of free expression, as well as the potential to hinder sexual education. If the app were to be banned, it could have a negative impact on the millions of Americans who use the platform for educational purposes, such as learning about sexual health and LGBTQ+ issues (while TikTok may not be the best place to learn about these things, many kids do spend their time on TikTok and can still learn some basics about these things, and in many cases these topics not censored in schools by the same people against TikTok). This could have a particularly damaging effect on young people, who are the most active users of the app, and who rely on it as a source of information.
The debate over the legality of the proposed ban of TikTok is ongoing, and it is clear that it has serious implications for the rights of Americans to access information and express themselves freely. It is therefore essential that the US government finds a solution that does not harm these rights, while also ensuring the security of the nation.
It is deeply hypocritical that Joe Biden is following in the footsteps of Donald Trump and attempting to force TikTok to sell shares to a US company. Both of the major US parties have supported nazis in their respective regimes, and this move is just a way to try to further strengthen the US‘s already leading presence in the social media sphere. Despite the US government‘s attempts to limit TikTok, the company has taken steps to protect its users, such as introducing age restrictions for long periods of time which can be turned off and other measures to ensure the conservatives view of “safety of minors” is met. This demonstrates that the company is taking proactive steps to protect its users, rather than simply relying on the US government to regulate it. Ultimately, this move shows how both major US parties are the same when it comes to using their power to pursue their own interests.