Congress debates full TikTok ban


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TikTok is at risk of being permanently banned in the U.S.

Emma Eischeid, Staff Writer

For years social media has been a controversial topic as many debate whether or not it is beneficial to the United States (U.S.) and its people. One of the most currently debatable and discussed platforms is TikTok, an app on which people can create and share short videos.

Rumors have spread that because this platform is owned by ByteDance, a company based in Beijing, they may be using TikTok to collect data about U.S. citizens for the Chinese government. According to PBS, most apps collect certain statistics from their users, but TikTok has access to more than the usual name, age and email, including biometrics (the tracking of physical characteristics).  Since over 150 million Americans use this app, the collection of that much information was a reason to worry and consider banning it in order to protect users. In my opinion, the risk of exposing U.S. data is not worth keeping the app around, when there are many other social media apps to use that do not pose the same risk as TikTok. Another worry surrounding the app is that the algorithm could possibly be used as a tool by the Chinese government to spread opinions among the population of users in the U.S. These opinions may include propaganda in support of the China Communist Party (CCP). 

All of these suspicions surrounding TikTok and its intentions were strengthened and supported,  CNBC says, when the Chinese spy balloon traveled through U.S. airspace from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4. Although many people may believe that the TikTok ban would be unnecessary and that everyday social media use is not going to give away any important information, the amount of details, such as search history, browsing habits, and more, that can be collected from TikTok use is surprising.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew was questioned in court on March 23 about TikTok’s true intentions. For hours, Chew attempted to convince the U.S. congress that his app is not sharing data with ByteDance and all of its American users’ statistics are stored in American software. However, the results of this questioning were not in his favor. Many of the U.S. government officials are still in favor of a TikTok ban and continue to have suspicions surrounding the app. 

Even though TikTok is not currently banned in America, it does have some restrictions placed on its usage, The Economist says. I believe that these are necessary to protect vital material held on the app. These limitations include that no federal government devices can have TikTok downloaded, nor can members of the executive branch use this app. Smaller state governments have also started placing bans and restrictions on this app. Around 30 states have banned it from governmental devices. 

TikTok is one of the most popular and frequently used social media apps in the U.S. Despite this, safety and security concerns have caused government officials to consider a ban. Data collection from citizens, the spread of unwanted opinions and potential cyber attacks are all reasons that have led to this consideration, but only time will tell the fate of TikTok. 

Contact Emma Eischeid at [email protected]