Skip to main content
Lasque Tiarc

TikTok warns that US ban would trample on freedom of expression

Vaseline 2 months ago

LOS ANGELES – TikTok says a possible ban on its app in the US would “trample the freedom of expression” of 170 million Americans. The US House of Representatives voted on Saturday to ban TikTok if the app’s owner does not cut ties with China. The legislation was part of a US foreign policy package that included support for Ukraine and could become law as soon as next week. In recent months, U.S. officials have expressed alarm about TikTok’s popularity among young people. They claim that TikTok owner Bytedance is subservient to Beijing – allegations it has repeatedly denied. The TikTok legislation was included in a package approved by lawmakers that would send $61 billion in foreign aid to Ukraine, as well as money for Israel and Taiwan. The House of Representatives was the first to vote on the future of TikTok, voting 360-58 on the updated bill to divest or ban. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week and US President Joe Biden previously said he would sign the legislation. If the bill becomes law, Bytedance will have nine months to sell its stake, with a possible three-month extension while the sale is underway or a ban is looming. A spokesperson for TikTok denounced the bill, saying it would “trample the freedom of expression of 170 million Americans, destroy seven million businesses and shut down a platform that contributes $24 billion (£19.4 billion) annually to the American economy”. TikTok has said that ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country.” And ByteDance insists it is not a Chinese company, pointing to the many global investment firms that own 60% of it. The U.S. House of Representatives voted in March to give ByteDance six months to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners or have the app blocked in the U.S., but that bill still awaits Senate approval. ByteDance, founded in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneurs, hit the jackpot for the first time with short video app Douyin in China. A year later it launched TikTok, an international version. The social media app was banned in China, but gained a billion users in five years. It is now run by a limited liability company based in Los Angeles and Singapore, but is essentially owned by ByteDance. Although the founders only own 20% of ByteDance, it has the controlling interest in the company. About 60% is owned by institutional investors, including large American investment companies such as General Atlantic, Susquehanna and Sequoia Capital. The remaining 20% ​​is owned by employees around the world. Three of the five board members are American. But Beijing’s grip on private companies in recent years has the U.S. concerned about the amount of control the Chinese Communist Party has over ByteDance and the data it holds. China has dismissed these concerns as American paranoia and warned that a TikTok ban will “inevitably come back to bite the US.” Since 2022, TikTok has been sending the data of all US users through Texas-based tech giant Oracle to address security concerns.

TikTok has emphasized that US data will be shielded and stored on Oracle servers in the US. Ahead of Saturday’s vote, Republican congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi – co-author of the bill – told the BBC’s World Business Report program that they want the app to survive. “I think it still has a lot of good content,” he said. “But the most important thing is that the country is not under the control or operation of a hostile country.”