Written By: Katherine Balbin
TikTok is the most downloaded app in the US by far, having over 100 million American users and 1.53 billion users worldwide. The social media app consists of 15-second to 3-minute videos, which discuss a variety of topics, including comedy, relatable skits, music, dancing, and even politics.
On February 27, the White House notified federal companies that they had 30 days to delete TikTok off of all federal electronic devices. On March 1st, Congress proposed a series of bills in order to permanently ban TikTok across the US. Then, on March 23, 2023, Congress held five hours of testimony with CEO of TikTok, Shou Chew.
Why are people in congress so adamant about the banning of TikTok? Cyber security is a rising concern. ByteDance is the parent company of TikTok, like Meta is the parent company of Facebook. ByteDance is a Chinese-owned company that has an obligation to comply with whatever the Chinese government asks for since the Chinese government also falls under the Chinese Communist Party. It is a concern that the Chinese government can ask for American user data through ByteDance through TikTok. However, in the testimony from Shou Chew, he specifically said, “The Chinese government has actually never asked us for US user data.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, TikTok has spent over 1.5 billion dollars on data security, and TikTok will be partnering up with Oracle, a computer software company, and new US data will be transferred into Oracle servers, so that US data can only be accessed through American servers. The data will also be transferred and monitored by American employees. During testimony Chew states, “Firewall off American data stored on American soil by an American company, overseen by American personnel that this is designed to move forward.” This plan will assure American data will be stored securely and be out of the hands of the Chinese government.
Another concern is that the app is making kids addicted to social media. How social media can put kids in vulnerable situations because of harmful trends. Trend such as the “Borg” trend. This consists of an empty container of a jug of gallon of milk being filled with water, alcohol and energy flavoring. This would eliminate the alcohol flavor. This in turn would make blacking out very easy. Hence, the dangerous trend. Even though this trend does originate from Tiktok, harmful trends have originated from almost every social media app.
What also comes into question is first amendment rights. Would this be infringing on the first amendment right of the 150 million Americans on the app? Millions of Americans using the app including the ACLU would agree. According to The New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to protest. Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel of ACLU said, ” Congress must not censor entire platforms and strip Americans of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.”
There is also a possibility lawmakers could force ByteDance to sell to an American company that would eliminate all security issues with China.
Some colleges and universities in the US are also banning the usage of TikTok on their wifi. Oklahoma State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
There have been attempts to ban TikTok in the past. Congress will continue to try to ban the app and pass bills to do so.