Since TikTok has been a phenomenon since it was relaunched in 2017. It has quickly gained popularity all around the world. The short-form video app, which makes use of an algorithm to recommend films to users in an infinite feed that they can browse through, is filled to the brim with all manner of content imaginable. It doesn't matter if you're into anime, searching for the craziest mashups you've ever heard, or just there for pure pleasure; the app's expansiveness has allowed it to become the social media platform that defines an entire generation. Over 150 million people in the United States use the app, and according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 67% of American teenagers claim they make use of it.
However, as TikTok has expanded, it has been under increasing scrutiny from its user base as well as journalists and the government of the United States. The mobile application has come under fire for allegedly disseminating false information on a wide range of subjects, including global warming, COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine, and even the neurodevelopmental condition ADHD. In addition, TikTok has been the target of legal action brought by concerned parents who assert that their children developed eating problems as a result of using the app.
TikTok has recently been confronted with a more significant obstacle in the form of increased pressure from state and federal organisations who wish to prohibit the use of the app owing to concerns that it may compromise national security. (This is not a first for the app; in 2020, former President Trump proposed a TikTok ban.) Midway through March, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal that the administration of Vice President Joe Biden had asked that the Chinese owners of TikTok sell their stakes or face the possibility of a ban in the United States. The CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, testified in front of Congress on Thursday morning amid mounting concern around the app.
All of the facts around the prospective ban will probably be a lot to comprehend, so from one TikTok scroller to another, here is all you need to know regarding the planned ban on TikTok and its potential effects on regular users.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT TIKTOK THAT PEOPLE WANT TO OUTLAW IT?
When it comes to the Chinese government and, more particularly, the concern that this government could or does interfere with TikTok's activities, several legislators have expressed a desire to outlaw TikTok because they believe it to be a threat to the nation's security and that this is the primary reason why they want to do so. TikTok is a popular video-sharing platform that is currently controlled by the Chinese corporation ByteDance. Some American lawmakers are concerned that ByteDance may exploit user data to spy on TikTok's American users and provide them with false information. Having said that, there are several people who all have different viewpoints on these purported risks and possibilities, which is why it is essential not to generalise these arguments too much. In this instance, it is beneficial to take a close look at the reasoning put forth by the legislators who were among the earliest supporters of the prohibition.
Even while support for a ban extends beyond the people on this list, three key lawmakers are campaigning for a ban on TikTok: Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. Their line of reasoning features several allusions to the defence of democracy, the elimination of communism, and an overarching sense of dread regarding the nature of the partnership that exists between the firm that controls TikTok and the Chinese government.
"This is not about making artistic movies; this is about an app that is gathering information on tens of millions of children and adults in the United States daily. We are aware that it is utilised to manipulate feeds and exert undue influence over elections. Sen. Marco Rubio's statement on the proposed legislation to prohibit TikTok includes the following passage: "We know it answers to the People's Republic of China."
DO I HAVE ANY REASON TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT HOW TIKTOK WILL USE MY INFORMATION?
The answer to this question is fairly complicated since there is a great deal that we do not know about the nature of ByteDance's relationship with the government of China and China in general. Depending on who you ask and how worried you are about how technology companies use personal data, the level of gravity of the issue may vary, as stated in an explanation provided by the Associated Press (AP).
TikTok may disclose users' information to the Chinese government, according to a warning issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Communications Commission. (TikTok has already been prohibited from usage on federal devices; this means that if you are employed by the United States government, you are not permitted to have the application loaded on your work phone.) According to the Associated Press, there is no evidence that TikTok has ever turned up data, even though proponents of the ban point to a Chinese law that was passed in 2017 that would oblige companies like ByteDance to provide information to the government when it pertains to worries about the country's national security. ByteDance stated in December that some of its workers had improperly collected data from two TikTok users in the United States who were journalists. This was a significant example of supposedly documented misuse that occurred in December. As a direct consequence of this, the corporation is currently the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department.
Again, there is still a lot that we don't know about TikTok's parent company ByteDance and its relationship with the Chinese government. However, the arguments that U.S. legislators are using in favour of this ban may also tap into a long-running fear of China and communism in general, in ways that are reminiscent of anti-communist attitudes that were prevalent during the Cold War. Rep. Gallagher, in his statement regarding the measure, compared enabling TikTok to operate in the United States to "allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War." This comparison was made in the context of Gallagher's opposition to the bill.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) asks TikTok CEO Shou Chew: "Does TikTok access the home WiFi network?" https://t.co/Fmv8MED8z0 pic.twitter.com/xwrYuSn3jE— Bloomberg (@business) March 23, 2023
TikTok would not be the first digital company to be accused of improperly handling customer data; other companies have been in the same position. When it comes to its algorithms, other platforms, such as the one owned by Meta, and Facebook, have been shown to have documented instances of data being exploited and exploitative practices taking place. For instance, the Cambridge Analytica incident allowed the voter profile firm access to the personal information of approximately 50 million Facebook users, which had the potential to influence the outcome of the election in the United States. According to Amnesty International, there was another occasion in 2017 where it was demonstrated that Facebook's algorithm contributed to the worsening of the persecution of the Rohingya people.
No information can be backed up by documentation to suggest that TikTok was a contributing factor in either of these occurrences. The fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese parent firm called ByteDance, which has raised worries among American legislators, is one of the things that sets it apart from other similar platforms. Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, has defended the firm and its practices. He has also stated that divesting the company from its Chinese owners does not give any more protection than the multibillion-dollar plan that TikTok has previously proposed to protect the data of American customers.
Users, regardless of the platform they use, should always exercise healthy scepticism over how their data is utilised by large technology businesses. We don't always know how firms based in the United States, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter use data either; thus, if you want some solid basic ideas to secure your data, our friends at The Verge have put up a nice list for you to use.
WILL THE USE OF TIKTOK BE PROHIBITED IN THE UNITED STATES?
We do not know whether or not legislators or President Biden will take action to ban TikTok on a national level and make it inaccessible to all inhabitants of the United States. At the time of its publication, the use of TikTok has already been restricted in many areas around the United States. More than a dozen states have passed legislation that prohibits the use of the application on work-related devices controlled by the state or the federal government. In addition to this, the Wi-Fi networks of some educational institutions, including colleges and universities, do not allow access to the video-sharing platform TikTok.
This article will be updated whenever new information that is more concrete concerning the impending ban of TikTok by the United States government is released.
WHEN IS TIKTOK GETTING BANNED?
We do not yet know when or if TikTok will be restricted in any way, nor do we know whether or not it will be prohibited altogether. The Wall Street Journal published an article that sparked fears about the imminence of a ban because the administration of Joe Biden insisted that Chinese shareholders sell their stakes or face the possibility of a ban.
In actuality, though, a ban on TikTok would call for a convoluted unwinding of several governmental and technological stages, which would make it more difficult to quickly implement the ban overnight on a national scale. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat who serves on the new House committee tasked with examining how the United States competes with China, and a legislator who favours legislation that would prohibit TikTok from operating in the United States, stated on Face the Nation that he does not believe the app would be banned this year. Krishnamoorthi is a lawmaker who supports bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok from operating in the United States. He conducted that interview in 2023, so that provides us with a notion of how quickly legislation could move from the perspective of an insider, but the narrative is always progressing in new directions. As further information becomes available to us, we will update this piece accordingly.
HOW WOULD IT WORK IF THE TIKTOK WAS BANNED?
There are a few different outcomes that could result from the implementation of a ban, as stated in a study that was created by NBC News from the opinions of four specialists in cybersecurity. The first step would be to take it off the app stores' shelves altogether. In this manner of putting the restriction into effect, the app would still be accessible on mobile devices on which it had previously been installed; however, it would become unreliable and finally inoperable because the developer would be unable to release updates. The United States might also make it illegal to use TikTok as a means of enforcing a ban, although a cybersecurity expert quoted in the story stated that such measures had never been done with a platform that was as widespread as TikTok before.
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