On Wednesday, the House foreign affairs committee voted along party lines to give the Joe Biden administration new powers to ban TikTok and other apps believed to pose security risks. The Chinese-owned app has been under scrutiny for some time due to concerns that the Chinese government could access user data or manipulate public opinion via the app. Legislation to Ban TikTok over Security Concerns Advances in House Committee.
Legislation to Ban TikTok over Security Concerns Advances in House Committee
The Republican committee chair, Michael McCaul, referred to TikTok this week as a “spy balloon in your phone,” alluding to the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina last month. Democrats on the committee voted against McCaul’s “deterring America’s technological adversaries act,” but Republican lawmakers pushed it through 24 to 16.
The fate of the measure is still uncertain and it would need to be passed by the full House and Senate before it can go to Joe Biden for approval. The vote comes in the same week that Canada joined the US in banning TikTok from being installed on all government-issued mobile devices due to security concerns. The European Commission has also banned TikTok from staff phones.
Critics of TikTok argue that it is a potential security threat, as it could provide the Chinese government with access to vast amounts of personal data belonging to US citizens. TikTok has repeatedly denied these accusations, stating that its servers are located outside of China and that it has implemented strict data protection measures.
Those who support the TikTok bans have expressed concerns that the Chinese government could use the app to manipulate public opinion or even interfere with elections. Given the widespread popularity of TikTok, especially among younger generations, the potential impact of such manipulation could be significant.
The House foreign affairs committee’s vote is just the latest development in the ongoing debate over TikTok’s security risks. With governments around the world growing increasingly wary of the app, it remains to be seen whether TikTok will be able to overcome these concerns and continue to operate in countries like the US and Canada.
The British government has stated that there is no evidence to support a ban on TikTok, in contrast to the recent moves made by the US and Canada. The UK’s secretary of state for science, innovation, and technology, Michelle Donelan, told Politico that “We have no evidence to suggest that there is a necessity to ban people from using TikTok. That would be a very, very forthright move, that would require a significant evidence base to be able to do that.”
Despite this, the House foreign affairs committee in the US voted to grant the Joe Biden administration new powers to ban TikTok and other apps believed to pose security risks. The committee vote was along party lines, with Republican lawmakers pushing through the “deterring America’s technological adversaries act” against the opposition of Democrats. The fate of the measure is still uncertain, as it would need to be passed by the full House and Senate before it can go to Joe Biden for approval.
Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee, opposed the legislation, stating that it would “damage our allegiances across the globe, bring more companies into China’s sphere, destroy jobs here in the United States, and undercut core American values of free speech and free enterprise.” He suggested that Democrats would prefer to rely on a security review of TikTok being undertaken by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, although an approved plan has yet to emerge from that process.
TikTok has over 1 billion users worldwide and around 110 million in the US alone, according to analytics firm data.ai. While TikTok denies accusations that it poses a security threat, governments around the world are growing increasingly wary of the app’s potential to provide the Chinese government with access to vast amounts of personal data belonging to US citizens. The ongoing debate over TikTok’s security risks is likely to continue, with different countries taking different approaches to the issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned that the proposed legislation to ban TikTok in the US is “vague and overbroad” and would violate the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans who use the platform to communicate, gather information, and express themselves. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has expressed disappointment in the legislation and stated that a ban on TikTok is essentially a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use the platform worldwide. A spokesperson for the company said the proposed ban would have a considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry has criticized the ban, calling it an abuse of state power and suggesting that it reveals Washington’s own insecurities. The ongoing debate surrounding the security risks of TikTok and its potential links to the Chinese government continues, with different countries taking different approaches to the issue.