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Sat. May 25, 2024
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TikTok: A winner or national security threat
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American politics is currently not without controversy. The latest is the tic tac toe debate widely known as the ban of TikTok within the U.S. The sponsors of this bipartisan bill have repeatedly stated it is not their intent to have the popular app banned but they are willing to take the necessary steps to protect Americans data and safety. 

TikTok was created in 2016 by the Chinese company ByteDance. TikTok gained popularity in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and now it has over 170 million American users.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R- WA-5) notified TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew who is famously not from China that “ We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values, values for freedom, human rights and innovation.” Rep. Rodgers who serves as chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is one of the 352 members of the House who voted in favor of H.R. 7521- Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. 

H.R. 7521 provides TikTok‘s parent company ByteDance with two choices; either sell TikTok within the six month deadline or keep it and it will be banned from U.S. app stores and webhosting services. It is a bipartisan bill being led by Rep. Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who is the Chairman for the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. 

The bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Biden. 60 senators would need to vote in favor of the ban. The president has signaled he is willing to support this initiative if it lands on his desk. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters

``This bill would ensure ‘ownership’ isn’t in the hands of those who may do us harm. This is about our national security.” Supporters of the bill believe they would be making the application safer and better for American consumers. 

Financial Freedom My Only Hope

A potential TikTok ban does not just represent a loss of freedom of speech, a First Amendment right but a loss of freedom in general. The First Amendment included in the Bill of Rights dictates that Congress should not authorize any law that would prohibit the exercise of or abridge the freedom of press; the right of the role peaceably to assemble and to petition the government. According to Shou Zi Chew in a TikTok video, “more than 300,000 American jobs are at risk and this will take billions of dollars from the pockets of creators and small businesses. Losing a main form of revenue would drastically impact thousands of American families. Financial freedom is the key to social mobility which is a prevalent motif in the United States. How can someone pick themselves up from their bootstraps and chase the American Dream without adequate resources?   

Young Voters 

TikTok is also an app used to circulate information quickly. It is used for more than just tricky dance trends. Through first-hand accounts, people can fight against the propaganda their governments might be trying to perpetuate. This has been extremely helpful in dispelling false narratives in elections and the current war between Israel and Palestine. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw young people all around the world assembling and building communities on TikTok.

The Democratic Party in the United States has continued to alienate their young voters and this ban has left many people feeling frustrated and unheard. TikTok was, and still is, a platform used to mobilize the youth. The TikTok ban can influence young voters by potentially limiting their access to diverse political content, discussions, and engagement opportunities. TikTok has been a platform where political discourse, activism, and voter mobilization efforts have thrived among young consumers. With its ban, young voters may have fewer avenues and resources to stay informed about political issues, engage with candidates, and participate in online activism. This would heavily impact their political awareness and participation in elections. November could have an unfavorable outcome for President Biden if he does not start engaging with the young voters of the Democratic Party.

Even though H.R. 7521 has not gone into effect yet, these are some of the possible consequences it could have. Lawmakers need to be more considerate about the bills they create because of the unintended side effects. This is not just an infringement on freedoms of speech but freedoms overall. It is an affront to American values. 

Monique Vaz is a first year graduate student at American University, School of International Service, for my Master's degree in Ethics, Peace and Human Rights.

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