TikTok ban is nothing more than the country’s latest fallacious moral panic

By Sophie Foster

Opinion Editor

As lawmakers consider passing into law a bill that would federally ban social media platform TikTok, Americans are considering the implications of this governmental insistence on restricting the popular app.

According to Politico, the bill, known as the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, already overwhelmingly passed through the House of Representatives with bipartisan support and now awaits the verdict of an ever-slow-paced Senate. If it is passed, its China-based owners would be required to sell the app within six months or be met with large-scale restrictions in the United States, including removal from the app store.

TikTok officials themselves are joining the dialogue, as well.

“TikTok has contended that it supports 5 million small businesses and that its average U.S. user is not a young teen, but someone over 30,” according to Politico. “It has also maintained that a ban would violate the First Amendment and denied that the app is ‘owned or controlled by the Chinese government.’”

“We continue advocating against the ban bill because it would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans and devastate small businesses across the country,” TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said for Politico.

The basis for the government’s scrutiny of TikTok, according to CBS News, is its ties to China, a nation which the U.S. has a contentious political relationship with.

Lawmakers “argue it threatens national security because the Chinese government could use TikTok to spy on Americans or weaponize it to covertly influence the U.S. public by amplifying or suppressing certain content,” according to CBS News.

TikTok pledges to deny any potential requests for Americans’ data from the Chinese government, pinpointing 2022’s Project Texas initiative that safeguards American data on U.S. servers, according to CBS News.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the most alarming element of this bill is its intrinsic subjectivity. It extends its considerations to “persons deemed ‘subject to the direction or control of a foreign person or entity’ without specifying what form such influence might take.”

In an era where social media amplifies social dialogue and is used for the spread of political information and organization, this is a troubling mission that comes accompanied by the implication that Americans’ freedom of speech is not a top priority for legislators at present. The removal of TikTok from American app stores is, by nature, censorship.

Beyond that, it is something few Americans seem to believe we need.

“If the flood of calls from TikTok and its users to congressional offices is any indication, it’s also not what many want,” according to the LA Times. “The legislation may, however, show the limit of what the current U.S. regulatory landscape can achieve. In a world increasingly defined by data, we’ll have to expand beyond those limits.”

The reality is that the U.S. government is pushing to instill a baseless fear of a foreign government into its constituents, and is witnessing very little success. If keeping spaces for widespread conversation available is an instigator of fear for our government, we owe it to ourselves to interrogate why.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo caption: It is presently unclear whether Americans will retain access to TikTok or not

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