The war on TikTok

TikTok
Illustration by Eduardo Velasquez.

On March 7 Congress introduced the RESTRICT Act, a bill that would give the government the power to ban TikTok. Lawmakers spoke about doing this in order to protect your privacy. The truth is that this is a witch hunt focused on keeping Americans (and their data) on American-made social media apps.

TikTok has given a platform and sustainability to so many peoples’ small businesses, many of which were born on TikTok. Without TikTok many of these businesses will be forced to close their shops, or worse, move to another app.

The RESTRICT Act doesn’t focus solely on banning just TikTok. It gives the government power to be able to ban any foreign apps they deem a danger to our safety and privacy. But the bill doesn’t even specify that this bill focuses on apps. The bill says its purpose is to “review and prohibit certain transactions between persons in the United States and foreign adversaries”. 

With this broad phrasing, if the bill is passed, Congress will have the power to ban any and all foreign apps. Although the bill states it’s only tech from “foreign adversaries”, the definition of this phrase isn’t set and can be changed by the government. 

Not only this but the bill gives the government a scapegoat as the RESTRICT Act puts this power directly in the hands of the secretary of commerce. If this bill was truly about TikTok then it should be directly targeted in the bill. Instead, the bill uses vague wording so that it can continue to be used on any and all foreign tech.

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Clearly this bill is not about TikTok but instead a way for the government to keep American people using American apps and tech. 

This is made more clear by the fact that the CEO of TikTok has already started working on a plan to protect our data and privacy, however, this project was met with nothing but resistance. On March 23 the CEO, Zou Zi Chew, testified in front of the U.S. Congress over a proposed plan he is calling Project Texas. The plan revolves around holding the data of its American users within the state of Texas.

 When Chew was on trial, facing allegations that TikTok was selling user data. Many of our lawmakers were concerned with the fact that holding our data on foreign soil would mean we couldn’t protect it.

Unfortunately, TikTok’s direct solution to the concerns of our Congress people fell on deaf ears. Our lawmakers’ unwillingness to meet TikTok halfway with the Project Texas proposal shows us that this bill has nothing to do with protecting our data. The true intent of this bill isn’t to keep us safe but to keep us on American apps.

 

Eduardo Velasquez
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