The case against the TikTok ban bill

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A year ago, I visited TikTok’s headquarters in the US to see the new “visual space”, a small part of its multi-billion investment to ensure its US meme factory . That effort has failed. Negotiations between the company and the government have stalled and the company faces a major threat to its future in the United States.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that, if enacted into law, would force ByteDance to sell TikTok or be banned from the US. What lawmakers view TikTok with suspicion is . Because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China, it is believed that the Chinese government could tamper with TikTok’s algorithms or access user information through ByteDance’s employees. But what has been remarkable about the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act is that it has managed to garner so much support from both sides of a seemingly empty aisle.

After being surprised The bipartisan bill committee adjourned the committee with a total vote of 50 – 0, and was approved by the entire House in a vote of 352 – 65 in less than a week. Among the many funds that are trying to control the technology industry in recent years, including two In TikTok, no one has acted quickly.

But the renewed support for banning or forcing the sale of TikTok does not appear to be consistent with the newly disclosed information about TikTok, ByteDance or the Chinese Communist Party. Instead, lawmakers have been repeating concerns that have been voiced about the program for years.

One problem that is often raised is data acquisition. TikTok, like many other social networks, gets a lot of information from its users. This practice has entered the company in the past when most of the users were found to be young. Many lawmakers cite user data, which they say can be obtained by Chinese authorities, as one of the dangers TikTok poses.

“Our bipartisan legislation would protect American social media users from running programs controlled by foreign adversaries to ensure Americans are protected from digital surveillance and affect the actions of governments that might use their information against them,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, one of the bill’s co-sponsors. , he said .

TikTok has repeatedly refused to share information with the Chinese government and says it would not comply if asked to do so. However, ByteDance has been caught hacking TikTok users’ data in the past. In 2022, ByteDance employees, including two who live in China, to obtain the data of journalists who wrote articles against the company. There is no evidence that this was controlled by the Chinese government.

In fact, Protecting Americans in Foreign Offices from Foreign Adversaries will do little to address the data access problem, experts say. Even if the software is banned or controlled by another company, information about Americans can still be obtained from companies not controlled by the data broker.

Advertisers gain access to information about Americans through many apps, websites, credit card companies and other businesses. Currently, there are few restrictions on what data can be collected or who can buy it. Officials in the Biden Administration have warned that China is this upload, more revealing than anything TikTok collects.

“The information that’s collected about you will live longer than you live, and there’s nothing you can do to delete it or remove it,” said Justin Cappos, a professor of computer science at NYU and a member of the NYU Center for Cybersecurity. , said Engadget. “If the US really wants to deal with this, the way to do it is not to blame Chinese media companies and put them in trouble. It’s to enforce data privacy laws and follow through.” [data] collect and track these data brokers. “

The House recently passed a bill that data brokers for selling the personal information of Americans to “opposition” countries like China. But, if approved, the law will not involve the sale of the data to third parties or the collection of all data from the beginning.

Digital rights activists and free speech activists like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have also suggested that the US banning or selling TikTok could give other countries cover to impose similar bans or bans on US social media sites. In a letter to lawmakers opposing the move, the EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said it would “set a dangerous global precedent for massive government control over websites.”

David Greene, EFF’s general counsel, said that the United States has criticized countries that have banned social media. “The State Department has been very critical of countries that have closed jobs,” Greene told Engadget, noting that the U.S. Nigerian government to in 2021. “Shutting down all jobs is anti-democratic.”

The intelligence officers did a and members of Congress about TikTok before the House vote. This has led some experts to believe that there should be more information about TikTok, but lawmakers have said that is not the case. . “These are things that happen on any social media site.” Likewise, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Jim Hines, that TikTok “is a serious threat … if Congress were determined to deal with this threat, we would start with a federal privacy bill.”

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