House Committee Approves Bill That Would Eventually Ban TikTok

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously voted to advance a bill to the House floor that could eventually ban TikTok. The bill from the Commerce Committee would ban TikTok from U.S. app stores unless it spun off from its China-linked parent company, ByteDance within five months.

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Millions of Americans use TikTok, and many thousands of them bombarded Capitol Hill with messages urging the committee to reject the ban. A notification on the app urged users to “speak up now – before your government strips 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.” 

“TikTok fires everybody up and then our offices are getting called with thousands of people calling up. Some kid called in [and] said they were gonna commit suicide. We have people calling in saying, ‘I’m on this all day long, every day. You can’t take this away from me,’” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told FOX Business in an interview. “It’s like we called into an AA meeting.” 

U.S. intelligence believes that TikTok can access browsing histories, device identifiers, network information such as IP addresses and users’ direct messages, along with search histories. Even the ultra-liberal Human Rights Watch believes the app is a danger to privacy.

ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, is a private company, but refusing control from the Chinese government might not be a safe option for the company’s China-based executives, given the government’s track record of punishing the country’s business executives for not toeing the party line.

For the same reason, the Communist Chinese government may demand access to data collected from American citizens. Would any ByteDance executive say no?

“I think everybody is becoming very aware of the extent to which TikTok is targeting our people. And that we are daring to challenge that is causing them to react very strongly because they don’t want to have to go through that and divest and we’re going to say, ‘yeah, you do.” added Roy.

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Should it pass, the bill would require TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance to divest the platform and other applications within 180 days or those applications will be banned in the United States. The bill would also create a narrow process to let the executive branch prohibit access to an app owned by a foreign adversary if it threatens national security.

Lawmakers have argued that Beijing could force TikTok on American users. TikTok insists it hasn’t done so and wouldn’t if asked. 

The company has argued that the bill is an “outright ban,” amounting to a violation of free speech.

China has tried hard to make it appear that TikTok wouldn’t be a bad actor while at the same time using the app’s vast database of 170 million Americans to gather intelligence. In this rare case, national security trumps free speech.

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