Proposed TikTok ban is not about protecting security

Written By Carson Folio, Staff Writer

On March 23rd, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified on Capitol Hill regarding concerns about the app and its collection of user data. He was bombarded with questions that proved that those who want the app banned have no idea how technology works. This was made clear when U.S Rep Richard Hudson (NC) asked Chew “does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi network?”

To the surprise of nobody who has used a phone, all social media apps require an internet connection to deliver content. This is not the first time that politicians have been confused about social media platforms either; the 2018 Facebook hearings on user data brought questions such as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch asking Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg “how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Zuckerberg responded “Senator, we run ads.”

Despite this, Facebook has not been facing any recent criticism from politicians on the same issues that concern TikTok. Both platforms collect user data, yet it is somehow okay for Facebook because it is a U.S based company?

The answer is simple. TikTok is a very popular platform that has resonated far with the U.S population, especially Generation Z. TikTok has allowed people to communicate on a grand scale but because this was not done by a U.S company, the government has a problem with it. One could even argue that this effort is nothing more than anti-China propaganda. Now, it is important to note that being concerned about the data harvesting that social media giants have normalized is valid; all the major social media networks collect a disgusting amount of information on its’ users and this piece does not serve as an endorsement for their tactics.

A previous attempt to get TikTok banned in 2020 but it failed; why is this being tried again?

It may have to do with the sharing of news that would otherwise not be seen. TikTok has been used to post content speaking out against recent government actions such as the onslaught of anti-trans legislation drafted by states – which often get little to no coverage in mainstream news. At the same time, the number of people using TikTok as their primary source of news has risen from 3% in 2020 to 10% in 2023 according to the Pew Research Center. Politicians that are determined to ban the app are likely aware of this, too. How this is not a blatant violation of the First Amendment baffles me. 

While I may not use TikTok, I do see the value that it has for the millions of people who use it daily. Whether that is delivering news, bringing entertainment, or its well-known algorithm that usually does a good job predicting what someone would like, the platform has an edge on other social media networks. Considering that Meta, YouTube, and Twitter have all made TikTok clones of their own, they know that the formula works. Of course, this success not being from a U.S company could be at the root of this sudden push to ban TikTok. However, a ban of the app would likely be hard to enforce and would be met with countless lawsuits to try and prevent it.