A bill that would allow United States President Joe Biden to impose an outright ban on one of the country’s most popular social media apps – TikTok – has made its way to the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers are concerned about the platform’s ties to the Chinese government.
The bill was officially named the “Deterring America’s Technology Adversaries Act” – a.k.a. the DATA Act.
It cites comments from the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who stated that the agency had “national security concerns” about the social media app to justify the imposition of sanctions against companies that export data from US users and other similar activities.
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The FBI’s comments also weighed on the power that TikTok gives China’s ruling government to use it to manipulate the content that US viewers see and access the data from the millions of American users that the platform has harnessed.
Other similar concerns were voiced by the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), both of which commented on the overall influence and reach that the Chinese government has gained over US citizens amid the popularity of TikTok.
They have stated that China can use it to infiltrate the nation by pushing misinformation campaigns, gain privileged access to millions of devices, and other similar malicious endeavors.
What is the DATA Act Proposing?
The bill’s text specifically names ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, the platform itself, and any connected subsidiary as entities that the White House must immediately analyze.
They want to determine if “reasonable grounds exist” to conclude that they are being either led by Chinese interests that have ties with the country’s government or that are subject to its influence.
The DATA Act is being sponsored by Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R) from Texas and must now be analyzed by Foreign Affairs Committee before being put to vote.
If approved, the bill would give Biden’s administration the power to impose a ban on the social media app.
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McCaul commented during the debate that took place this Tuesday that TikTok could be considered a “modern-day Trojan horse” used by Chinese authorities to “exploit Americans’ personal information”.
The hostilities against ByteDance’s popular platform have been growing in the United States as the federal government recently imposed that all government-issued mobile devices must uninstall TikTok.
Several states have joined this directive as they believe that Chinese authorities could use the app to surveil members of the government.
Experts have commented in the past that TikTok is known for requiring users to extend permissions to the app that are considered unnecessary to its proper functioning.
TikTok Responds to These New Efforts to Ban its App
In regards to the DATA Act, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter commented: “A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide”.
The PR official from the Chinese company added: “We’re disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward, despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok”.
To address these data privacy concerns, TikTok made the decision to move its data from US users to data centers within the country that are owned and operated by Oracle.
However, it clarified that some of its personnel in China could still access the data.
Also read: TikTok Introduces New Parental Control Tools and Well-Being Features for Teens
Even though it might be a while for this new bill to make its way to the Senate to ultimately be sent to Joe Biden’s desk, these initiatives are threatening the platform’s advance on American soil and could deter some users from signing up.
As of January 2023, the data from TikTok suggests that the platform had 113.3 million users that were older than 18 years.
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