Is this story coming to an end?

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok’s future in the U.S. is uncertain due to national security concerns, with a bill aiming to force ByteDance to sell the app.
  • The ban may affect millions of American users and small businesses, sparking protests and urging users to speak up against it.
  • While concerns over data security are valid, banning TikTok may not solve the issue, leading to potential consequences for American user data.

TikTok is one of the best social media apps in the world. The app created by ByteDance has around 150 million active users in the U.S. alone, or at least that’s what Statista reported in January. This is thanks to its short-form videos, which users create and consume, making them perfect for humor, short recipes, curiosities, and more. However, the United States government isn’t a fan of the app and has been aiming to ban it based on allegations of national security threats, and it seems that this ban will finally take place.

The story began back in 2020, when President Trump explicitly said, “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.” Of course, time and other factors changed Trump’s perspective on the topic, which gave ByteDance more time to handle this mess. President Biden also revoked the ban on TikTok and other executive orders in 2021, making us believe that the drama was coming to an end as the White House changed its stance on application security, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:

“The Commerce Department will be required to review apps “involving software applications that are designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons that are owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary, including the People’s Republic of China, that may present an undue or unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and the American people.”

Unfortunately for Chinese owner ByteDance, the latest events might jeopardize TikTok’s status in the United States, as the House passed a bill that will ban the app unless it gets sold. This obviously doesn’t help relations between the U.S. and China, who keep on taking action with national security, free speech, and the social media industry on their minds. The bill had tons of support from both political parties, passing with 352 votes in favor, while only 65 chose to stand against it.

The bill basically aims to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners within six months, and if this doesn’t happen, the app will simply be banned.

The main reason why this bill was approved by a landslide is that members of the House believe that “Chinese ownership of the platform poses grave national security risks to the United States, including the ability to meddle in elections,” which kind of makes sense, considering that 2024 presidential election will take place in November. The bill basically aims to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners within six months, and if this doesn’t happen, the app will simply be banned.

Of course, the ban will also affect millions of Americans who use the app, as well as tons of small businesses, or at least that’s what TikTok’s spokesman, Alex Haurek, believes, as he claims that:

“This process was secret, and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it’s a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service.”

Which American companies can buy TikTok?

Back in 2020, we saw several big names interested in buying TikTok, and ByteDance eventually decided to sell the app to a group that included Oracle and Walmart, but the deal went south when ByteDance won the legal issues that were forcing them to sell the video streaming platform. Now, ByteDance may have to, once again, look for possible buyers with some interesting names on the table, including Microsoft, Kevin O’Leary, and Elon Musk, to name a few.

TikTok is still trying to go against the tide, claiming that “it has gone to great lengths to protect U.S. user data and provide third-party oversight of the platform and that no government can influence the company’s recommendation model.” Also, the company said that “there is no proof that Beijing has used TikTok to obtain U.S. user data or to influence Americans’ views,” which are some of the issues that cause the most concerns in the hearts of American lawmakers.

TikTok has also invested more than $1 billion in Project Texas, a plan that aims to handle U.S. user data separately. The said plan has been active for several years, being supervised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, but unfortunately, it hasn’t delivered the expected results, which led to the creation of the bill.

Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t fix the main problem, which involves American’s data, and how this information can easily be accessed by those in charge of social media applications. Yes, you will take the app away from the Chinese, but what tells you that we won’t have another Cambridge Analytica scandal on our hands? The firm claimed that it had access to Facebook’s data so that its clients could better target political messages, which is another reason why Trump is against the ban. He believes that this legislation will strengthen Meta, making people turn to Facebook and Instagram to fill the spot left by TikTok. To be more specific, the former president said:

“If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!”

The latest chapter of this story had TikTok sending messages to its users, urging them to “speak up” against the bill that would ban the app in the U.S. Many users have taken action, protesting, and calling House offices to express their position on the issue. Some of these offices report more than 20 calls per minute, which has led to some offices to temporarily shutting off phones.

We can understand the interest of U.S. lawmakers of keeping American’s data safe, but this ban won’t fix that. It will only change who holds TikTok user data. Finally, we will have to wait and see if the Senate approves this bill, as President Biden already said that he will sign it if it does.

NY Times

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