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Why TikTok Faces Ban in US

TikTok is the most popular app in the US. 150 million Americans – nearly half the population – use it every month. The app offers an endless, scrolling wonderland of humor, music, dance, tips, opinions and information – short videos posted by TikTok fans and all delivered to you according to your interests. And for nearly five million businesses, TikTok is also a marketing tool.

Bedri Nicole of Columbus, Ohio uses TikTok to market her bakery business.

tick tock

Bedri Nicole, founder of a bakery in Columbus, Ohio, said of TikTok, “It taught me how to do e-commerce, how to get into shipping. And more, I use it to find my next customer. By getting on TikTok before, we’re profitable. I was struggling to do.”

And now? “We’ve seen at least a 300% increase in profits,” he said.

So, if Americans love TikTok so much, why has Congress proposed so many bills that could ban the app?

And why, during a congressional hearing last month, TikTok CEO Shou Chew Rep. Kathryn Cammack (R-Fla.) faced comments like: “You know damn well you can’t protect the data and security of this committee, or the 150 million users of your app”?

Congress has four primary concerns with TikTok. First, TikTok collects data about you; Second, kids get addicted to spending time on TikTok; And third, people can find misinformation and violence. Of course, this is also true for Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.

So, what’s the difference? Chinese influence. “TikTok has a parent company called ByteDance, and ByteDance is a Chinese company that has to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthy (D-Ill.).

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said, “Not all social media is necessarily great for kids, but TikTok is a fundamental difference in addressing the problem.”

Krishnamurthy and Gallagher co-sponsored one of the “Ban TikTok” bills And their biggest concern is data control. “But the thing that worries me the most is the ability to control what Americans see or don’t see and ultimately influence our elections, which could be disastrous in the future,” Gallagher said.

However, Milton Mueller, professor of cybersecurity and public policy at Georgia Tech, has studied the theory that TikTok’s algorithm tries to influence ideology. “There’s no indication that it’s in any way run or controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. We just found it to be a complete fabrication. You can get information about the suppression of Uighurs, you can get information that mocks Xi Jinping. It’s all there,” he said.

In the heat of battle, both TikTok executives and members of Congress sometimes stretch the truth. Take the data collection business, for example. At a congressional hearing on TikTok, Rep. Cathy Rogers (R-Wash.) said, “TikTok collects almost every data point imaginable.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on TikTok

TikTok CEO Shou Chiu (seated below right) speaks about social media platform security to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mueller disputed this: “There have been three technical studies done on this. They basically all say what they tell you is in their privacy statements.”

Like every social-media app, TikTok collects data like your phone model, its Internet IP address, and your time zone. Unlike other apps, TikTok doesn’t know your name or your GPS location. It only knows your general area, like what city you’re in.

So, where does all this leave us? Gallagher and Krishnamurthy’s bill, called the Antisocial CCP Act (HR 1081), seeks to force the issue. “It would essentially allow for two outcomes in this case,” Gallagher said. “An app would be banned entirely; or it would allow sales to an American company.”

“Didn’t anyone in your inner circle say, ‘Guys, banning TikTok will be a political disaster,'” asked Pogue.

“Well, I would say it would be a geopolitical disaster to allow it to continue,” Gallagher replied. “And that, to me, is much more important than making some teenagers angry.”

So, sell TikTok, or ban it? It may be impossible to sell – although very valuable, the Chinese Communist Party may object to a sale. Regarding banning TikTok, Mueller said, “There’s probably a 90% chance that it’s going to be declared unconstitutional (because of) the First Amendment. You’re banning an information source, you’re banning a publication. I have to emphasize this: If you ban TikTok ban, but it’s not the Chinese government that will be silenced; it’s the app’s 150 million American users. They’re the ones whose free speech rights will be violated by the ban.”

But TikTok is offering a third option. CEO Shou Chew mentioned it often in his testimony: “Project Texas” is a proposal to move TikTok’s entire operation to the United States, placing all its data and even those top-secret algorithms under the supervision of an American company, Oracle. . “The bottom line is: American data is stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American workers,” Shaw said. “This addresses concerns that some of you have shared with me that TikTok user data may be subject to Chinese law.”

Congress is not for sale. Rep. Frank Pallone (DN.J.), told Shaw, “I still believe that the Communist government in Beijing still controls and has the power to influence what you do.”

Mueller believes that attacking TikTok is an easy way for politicians to get tough on China: “TikTok is a symbolic way for these people to attack the most innocent kind of interaction between the Chinese digital economy and the US digital economy.”

As for Baedri Nichole, she has become a “Save TikTok” activist. TikTok even flew him and 25 other fans to Washington to attend a rally against the ban.

Nicole has some advice for Congress: “After the congressional hearings, it’s very clear that maybe you haven’t done all the due diligence you’ve given us as your constituents. You really need to get on the app and better understand the decisions being made, and how it affects the public at large.” will affect the good.”

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The story was produced by Amy Wall. Editor: Chad Cardin.

Technical Security and Privacy

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