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National Security Concerns over TikTok

Rachel Loeb


TikTok, the video-sharing social media app, has recently been under investigation for its ties to the Chinese government. The investigation has raised concerns about national security and data privacy, as TikTok has become one of the most popular apps worldwide. The investigation into TikTok first began late last year over allegations that TikTok was obtaining private user data to spy on United States journalists and was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. This criticism is not new, as politicians have already had suspicions that the app could be used by the Chinese government to collect data from Americans and spread their propaganda, thereby harming America’s national security. TikTok has also faced multiple charges related to data privacy and security in the past. In 2019, the company had to pay a $5.7 million dollar fine to settle charges after it illegally collected information from children under the age of 13. Also, late last year, following numerous state governments, Congress and President Joe Biden passed legislation that blocked TikTok from US government devices. Recently in Montana, Tiktok was banned; however the app is suing over a violating to their First Amendment rights.Lawmakers in other countries such as Canada, Australia, Britain, and France have also imposed various restrictions on the app.

This recent investigation into TikTok came after a bipartisan bill called the RESTRICT Act was introduced to Congress. This act would give the US Commerce Secretary the authority to control and potentially ban technology from specific countries, including China. Although the bill already has support from a quarter of the Senate, it is far from becoming a law and has received a lot of backlash - from the public and from other senators. TikTok is also facing pressure from government entities beyond Congress. For example, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States as well as President Biden’s administration requested that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their share of the app. Another potential path is President Biden banning it by using an executive order. However, when President Trump attempted this in 2020, courts ruled that he did not have the legal authority to do so. Another outcome could be if ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent company, sells TikTok to another company, although that scenario is unlikely since they consider it to be a last resort. Additionally, the investigation has been criticized for focusing on TikTok, and this could potentially lead to Congress passing data and privacy laws that apply to all tech companies.

While TikTok is being held under intense scrutiny, the chances of it being banned nationwide are slim. TikTok’s ban has been discussed since before Biden took office, and it still hasn’t happened. If the issue is taken to court, it is likely that judges will protect or at least delay the restrictions because of free speech concerns. TikTok is also taking steps to protect itself and move forward. In the past three years, TikTok has hired numerous new lawyers. Also, TikTok is very compliant and is currently in negotiations with the Biden administration for a plan to secure American data and stop Chinese propaganda. Several TikTok creators have visited Washington, and its CEO, Shou Zi Chew, testified before Congress, which increased their public support. TikTok has also been working on a $1.5 billion initiative called Project Texas, which would help quell fears as American data would now be stored by an American company, in an American city, so that the Chinese government cannot access that data.



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