Say Goodbye to Tiktok? US Administration Pushes to Ban Tiktok

A recent congressional hearing with the CEO of TikTok discussed whether or not the US should ban TikTok. Concerns have been raised regarding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, using TikTok to spy on the US, though many users have rallied against the ban.

Tiktok CEO Shou Zi Chow sits in the ByteDance offices in Singapore (Credit: The New York Times).

Recent concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security have prompted the debate about the popular social media app’s possible ban. 

In multiple countries, including Europe, Canada, and the United States, lawmakers have placed additional pressure on restricting or banning the use of TikTok, due to concerns about security risks associated with the parent company of TikTok, ByteDance. 

Already, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has already banned staff from downloading TikTok on NATO-provided devices as a safety precaution, fearing that China could have access to user data through ByteDance. 

Other countries such as India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have previously banned TikTok for similar reasons. Canada, U.K, Taiwan, and the United States have restricted access on government-issued devices. 

The Biden Administration has asked ByteDance to either sell the company or face a ban in the United States. Additionally, a draft has been made that would limit security concerns and remove the need for ByteDance to sell TikTok. 

These changes were aimed to reduce the security risk of TikTok user information. The first ensured that TikTok’s American data was stored only in servers within the United States, with the computer software company Oracle. The second stated that Oracle would monitor TikTok’s algorithms, intended to alleviate concerns about Chinese propaganda pushed to TikTok users. Lastly, TikTok would form a board of security experts. 

These concerns about TikTok are not new. During the Trump Administration, pressure was placed on ByteDance to sell its US-based assets to an American company, though this deal never went through. 

On March 23, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew attended a congressional hearing, where he disputed concerns about China’s influence and association with TikTok, stating that TikTok does “not promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government.”

Many TikTok users have rallied against the ban, posting hundreds of videos in support of TikTok and its CEO, expressing concern about the violation of their First Amendment rights and arguing that other social media apps aren’t facing similar pressures. 

“It is a platform that people use to express themselves and cure boredom,” sophomore Danni Zheng said.

Other students agree with this stance. 

“I do think China is somewhat gathering info on us citizens,” sophomore Sherry Torbati said. “But I don’t think TikTok should get banned because other apps are just as bad.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted her first TikTok on March 24, 2023, showing similar support for TikTok.

“Do I believe TikTok should be banned,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “No. The United States has never before banned a social media company from existence, from operating in our borders. And this is an app that has over 150 million Americans on it.”

“Our first priority should be in protecting your ability to exist without social media companies harvesting and commodifying every single piece of data about you, without you, and without your consent,” she continued, addressing her larger concern about the core issue of data privacy and protection on any social media. 

Her video garnered over 4 million views. 

“I don’t think TikTok should be banned,” sophomore Kayla Baron said. “Although it may be a toxic place for some people, TikTok is also a positive place for people to embrace themselves.”

Tiktok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, disputes concerns about Tiktok’s ownership by Chinese company ByteDance in front of Congress on March 23, 2023 (Credit: Pew Research Center).