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TikTok faces another potential national ban as Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) prepare to introduce a bipartisan bill to ban the app from the United States.
The legislation, called the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information Communications Technology Act, or RESTRICT Act, is just the latest effort by Congress to crack down on the short-form video application.
Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries, or DATA Act, which would allow President Biden to ban the app. However, there is no word on whether the law will be voted on by the full house.
Shares of Meta ( META ) and Snap ( SNAP ) made headlines.
TikTok is under increasing scrutiny in Washington, with intelligence agencies saying the app could be used by China to spy on Americans or spread pro-Chinese propaganda. TikTok is owned by China-based parent company ByteDance. Under Chinese law, organizations are required to hand over data to the Chinese authorities upon their request.
The US government has previously tried to kill TikTok, which has around 100 million US users. Former President Trump tried to shut down the app with an executive order, although that was blocked by the courts.
The US government, states and foreign governments, including the EU, have already banned TikTok from official devices.
While government agencies and politicians have expressed concern about China’s ability to influence TikTok, there is little evidence that it is actually doing so.
In 2022, TikTok migrated all US user data to Oracle servers in Virginia. At the time, the company also had backup copies on its Singapore servers, but it is also deleting those.
TikTok has denied it poses a threat to US national security, while groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have said banning the app entirely would violate the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans.
According to cybersecurity experts, TikTok collects the same amount and type of data as other social media platforms. An investigation by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that “TikTok’s program features and code do not pose a threat to national security.”
A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Internet Governance Project, meanwhile, found that “TikTok is a commercially motivated enterprise and not an instrument of the Chinese state.” The study also found that “TikTok does not export censorship, either directly by blocking material or indirectly through its recommendation algorithm.”
Experts say the Chinese government may use other means to collect user data on Americans, such as scraping publicly available data from sites like Facebook and Instagram. The Chinese government is already using American social networks to spread its own propaganda.
It is an open question whether the ban on TikTok will stand up. The company is likely to challenge any laws that attempt to prevent it from operating outside the United States, and based on past success, the company could once again come out on top.
Do you have any tips? Email Daniel Howley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at: @DanielHowley.
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