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Why Does the US Want to Ban TikTok?

Amar Preciado

On March 13 of this year, the US House of Representatives gave the Beijing-based media titan ByteDance a concerning ultimatum: sell TikTok to a US buyer within six months, or the app will be completely banned in the US. The bill was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote: 352-65.

On April 20, the US House of Representatives passed a massive foreign aid package that quietly modified the TikTok ban measure. Now, ByteDance has an extension to sell the app in nine months and an additional three months if a sale is in the works. The Senate swiftly passed the foreign aid package and President Biden signed it into law.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew responded to the law by saying, “We are confident, and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts. The facts and the Constitution are on our side.” TikTok will undoubtedly challenge this law in the courts and drag out this process for months if not years.

Since the House first passed the bill, TikTok has urged its users to contact their representatives and express their disapproval. They launched a $2.1 million advertisement campaign, with the content aired locally, nationally, and on the app itself. In these ads, TikTok proudly embraces the fact that it has 170 million active users in the US, including more than 7 million businesses. Further, TikTok claims it drove $14.7 billion in revenue for American small businesses and has contributed over $24.2 billion to the US economy in 2023 alone. 

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Protest in support of TikTok outside the US. Capitol (Anna Moneymaker)

Considering all these benefits, why is a rally against this platform uniting our polarized political parties in Congress? US House Representatives on both sides of the aisle have expressed national security concerns. Representatives claim that the Chinese Communist Party uses the app to spy on American citizens, interfere with our elections, and spread pro-China sentiments. With such bold accusations, it is concerning that Congress did not bring forward a shred of evidence to back up their claims before passing the bill.

While ByteDance was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs, TikTok’s boardroom is composed of one Singaporean, one Hong Kongese, and three Americans. 60% of TikTok is owned by global investors, not exclusively Chinese investors. Singapore, U.S., and Ireland-led Trust and Safety teams oversee content moderation on TikTok. Ultimately, Congress will be unable to prove that there is any oversight or influence from China’s government because that simply isn’t the case.

While there is no proven wrongdoing on TikTok’s end, the app has become more popular than its US-based competitors, ultimately its greatest crime. According to Pew Research Center, TikTok has the fastest-growing user base in the US since 2021, with about a third of US adults using the app. More than 60% of American teenagers use TikTok; more than half are daily users and 17% claim they use it “almost constantly.” With numerous members of Congress owning millions of total shares in Meta, it is beneficial for their stock portfolios and other American media corporations to simply shut down their more successful foreign competitor. Tracked by the financial data platform “Unusual Whales,” the author of this bill, Michael McCaul, purchased $600,000 of Meta stock in the past year alone.

While there is no evidence the CCP purposely spreads propaganda on TikTok, left-wing ideology and content is able to thrive on the app as it isn’t under the thumb of the American government. For example, the US has historically been one of Israel’s most adamant supporters and continues to be in their war against Hamas in Gaza. This conflict has been receiving international coverage for months now. While older Americans still tend to be highly supportive of US military aid to Israel, young Americans (ages 18 to 29) are much more likely to say Biden is unduly favoring Israel. 

According to the GitHub repository, “for every video view with a pro-Israel hashtag in the US, there are 54 views with pro-Palestinian hashtags.” Additionally, a surge of TikTok content covered the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in December 2023. TIME Magazine analyzed opinionated hashtags concerning the war and found that hashtags in support of Palestine racked up a whopping 157.9 million views in the US, with ‘#freepalestine’ alone having 82.6 million views. The most viewed hashtag in support of Israel, on the other hand, was ‘#istandwithisrael’ at only 2 million views. Pro-Palestine sentiments have flooded our TikTok algorithms and have undoubtedly influenced the demonstrations we see across the nation. 

The TikTok ban was fast-tracked in a foreign aid package, so it is hard to write this off as a coincidence. The US operates under the guise of protecting national defense when the real motivations are self-interest and the hope of strong-arming ByteDance. 

As of March 2024, Congress’ approval rate is at a dismal 15%. Congress members consistently neglect meaningful initiatives, drag their feet, and ignore the people’s wishes. Simultaneously, they move swiftly to limit the information we share and receive, threaten people’s incomes, and ban one of the most popular social media apps in the country.

A foreign entity owns TikTok and has seen wild success in the US. Our government cannot control the information disseminated on the platform, which spreads progressive ideas that our government is vehemently against and has a young user base. The fate of TikTok remains unknown, but the American public must condemn Congress’ actions and protect our First Amendment rights.

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Coit
Scarlett Coit, Writer / Photographer
Hello! My name is Scarlett Coit & I’m currently working towards earning an Associate’s Degree in Journalism, & will later transfer to a four-year university to complete my Bachelor’s. I’m interested in photojournalism, as I’ve been photographing local creatives & urban architecture for many years now. I spend a lot of time reading about American politics, through recent news or political theory, & love learning about how they shape our lives & relationships with others. I spend my free time reading, drawing, & being a bit pretentious about film & television.
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