Is Congress banning TikTok?


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A photo of someone using TikTok: the app possibly soon to be banned

To say that TikTok is omnipresent seems almost like an understatement. If you go to essentially any place, it wouldn’t be hard to find someone who has the social media platform on their phone. However, that may soon become a distant reality following the introduction of a senator’s newest bill.

The bipartisan bill—called the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act—was introduced by a dozen different senators. The proposed legislation gives the secretary of Commerce the authority to ban any foreign technology or companies that present a national threat to security, including banning TikTok.

Although TikTok is included within the range of being potentially banned, that does not mean it is the only thing being restricted; companies and technology from countries such as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba, are all within the reach of the secretary of Commerce to take action against.

Even so, it is TikTok that has taken the spotlight for the bill. The concern is the millions of people using the app every day, which ultimately means that the app has an untold amount of sensitive information about you. With all that information, the app could, whether it be willingly or by force of the Chinese government, give away all of that sensitive user data or facilitate the spread of propaganda campaigns inside the United States.

The concern is that there are millions of people using the app every day, which ultimately means that the app has an untold amount of sensitive information about you.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew has repeatedly said that the app does not store United State’s user’s information in China, and, if asked to hand it over, they would not. On top of that, they say that they are taking steps to come up with a plan to reduce any risk of China influencing them. Despite that, Chew will still be testifying before Congress on March 23.

However, the RESTRICT Act is not the only legislation put in place to try and ban TikTok. Earlier, the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act—or DATA Act—was voted to advance by the House Committee. This bill would require President Joe Biden to impose sanctions or completely ban the app if it is found that the platform knowingly transferred sensitive information to anyone.

Another pressing difference between the two bills is the fact that the DATA Act specifically mentions and targets TikTok whilst the RESTRICT Act targets anything that could pose a national threat to security. Thus, the RESTRICT Act has more of a framework to evaluate and handle companies that threaten national security rather than simply targeting a single company.

Congress acknowledges that even if the bills are passed, there will still be thousands, if not millions, of people who will bypass their restrictions to continue using the app; however, whatever steps they can take to protect the national security of the nation and its citizens, they say will be taken.

The two proposed pieces of legislation are still just that: proposals. But whether or not the government deems it necessary enough to pass them will be a decision that affects us all.