Why TikTok App Bans Are Trending in the US: Explained
A new bipartisan Senate proposal aimed in part at limiting access to Americans
Federal legislation introduced Tuesday by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (RS.D.) would authorize the U.S. government to ban or enforce foreign-owned technology, applications, software or sales of electronic devices. trading platforms considered a threat to national security. This echoes a series of previous restrictions on use of the app by local, state and federal governments.
TikTok has exploded in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to its short-form video content and fine-tuned algorithm. But with more than 1.5 billion users worldwide, the widespread app has inspired increased scrutiny of the app’s data practices that have extended beyond the United States, as the European Union and Canadian governments recently introduced similar bans on government-issued devices. focused.”
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1. Who bans TikTok?
Concerns about TikTok were first brought to the national stage by the former president
TikTok’s concerns go beyond any apparent “red” versus “blue” divide. Republican governors have issued executive orders imposing several state-level restrictions on the use of TikTok, but states with Democratic governors, including Kansas and New Jersey, have also banned the app. Some local lawmakers in major cities like Denver and Baltimore have introduced their own bills to ban the app.
More than 12 higher education systems, including the University of Georgia and the University of Texas at Austin, have blocked the app from campus networks or school-owned devices.
Federal lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would ban TikTok from all devices in the United States, a tactic that has raised free speech concerns. According to the American Enterprise Institute, banning the app entirely could violate activities on the platform protected by the First Amendment.
2. What concerns drive the ban?
Proponents of TikTok’s ban have primarily expressed concerns about cybersecurity risks and the United States’ unfavorable relationship with the Chinese government. The app is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., which has raised questions about the Chinese government’s ability to access user data, including that of Americans. In December 2022, ByteDance disclosed that four of its employees had mistakenly accessed the account information of some Americans.
Lawmakers have also raised fears that TikTok’s algorithm, which decides what content users see, could be manipulated in an attempt to spread disinformation or influence public opinion in the United States about certain issues.
Some states have specifically removed the app from the devices of agencies that handle government payroll data and other sensitive financial data, though most bans are statewide.
3. What is TikTok’s response?
The company has called the bans misleading and is making efforts to persuade government officials to change course.
“We are disappointed that so many states are jumping the political bandwagon to enact policies that do nothing to advance their state’s cybersecurity and are based on unsubstantiated lies about TikTok,” TikTok spokesman Jamal Brown previously told Bloomberg Law. to.
TikTok has opened a transparency center at its Los Angeles headquarters, allowing visitors to see how its content moderation, algorithms and other tools work. The US plan to mitigate security concerns includes cooperation
As bills to ban TikTok gain momentum, ByteDance has stepped up its efforts to lobby the federal government, spending a total of $5.3 million in 2022, according to the nonprofit OpenSecrets.
The company appears to be increasing its presence in a few states. ITikTok has spent at least $259,000 lobbying in California over the past two years, while there appears to have been no state lobbying activity in previous years. In New York, TikTok spent at least $147,000 on lobbying during the same period.
4. Is TikTok facing legal action?
Indiana is the only state to have sued the app so far, although TikTok faces a number of lawsuits from consumers who claim the app’s tracking techniques have violated their privacy.
Indiana’s attorney general filed two complaints against TikTok in December 2022, citing child safety and privacy concerns. The lawsuits accuse the app of misleading consumers about how protected US user data is from access by the Chinese government and whether the app is suitable for young children.
5. How to block TikTok access?
Most of the bans so far are on government-owned equipment, such as cell phones and computers, and are primarily enforced by federal and state agencies.
At the federal level, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued standards in late February directing agencies to identify and remove the app from government devices within 30 days. Exceptions must be authorized by the head of the agency or other authority and must be documented separately.
To ensure government employees don’t download and use TikTok, some states, such as Texas, have ordered agencies to “identify, track and control” government-owned devices and allow banned apps remote removal. Several universities have blocked the TikTok domain on school WiFi networks using firewalls and network-based restrictions, which could offer a model for implementation elsewhere.
Access to TikTok in mobile app stores may also be limited. While personal devices can still access TikTok, these devices cannot conduct government activities or access government information.
Penalties for violating the policy vary from state to state. In North Carolina, for example, an employee could lose their job as a result.
6. Can this lead to other apps being banned?
Some state bills and executive orders banning TikTok already mention other apps deemed “high risk.” It is possible that the bans will expand to include more apps or services that are linked to US adversaries.
For example, Ohio’s executive order banned the use of Chinese-owned apps such as Weibo and WeChat on government devices. New Jersey also banned Russian antivirus company Kaspersky Lab Inc.
Instead of listing specific apps, a California bill would simply ban apps owned or controlled by “a country of concern.”
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TikTok Hawks in Congress are considering options to restrict the app from the US
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