TikTok edged closer to being banned by US authorities

The American authorities are moving closer to potentially banning TikTok, a video-sharing app owned by China, on a national level. The House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the US legislature, overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill called Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, with 352 votes in favor and 65 against. If the bill becomes law, TikTok could be removed from US app stores unless its owner, ByteDance, spins off the app soon.

The bill has not yet been approved by the Senate, and it is uncertain if it will pass. Supporters of the bill argue that TikTok poses a national security threat due to China’s strict intelligence laws, which could potentially allow the Chinese government to access user data in the US. ByteDance has consistently denied these claims, but similar arguments were used successfully in the past to remove networking firm Huawei from national telecoms networks in the UK.

The bill has gained support among senior US politicians, and President Biden has indicated that he would consider it if it reaches the Oval Office. However, former President Trump, who was previously in favor of banning TikTok and attempted to do so before the end of his term in 2020, now opposes the ban because he believes it would benefit Meta.

A TikTok spokesperson commented on the bill, stating that the process was secretive and rushed, and that they hope the Senate will consider the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use TikTok.

TikTok is already banned on government-owned devices in the US since 2022. Many other countries, including the UK and France, have also imposed restrictions on TikTok, particularly on government-owned devices. A ban in the US would have significant global repercussions due to TikTok’s dominance in social media technology and policy.

James Mawhinney, founder of reputation management platform Media.com, believes that a nationwide TikTok ban could lead users to seek alternative platforms with similar content experiences, potentially changing the dynamics of the social media landscape. He also suggests that the ban could prompt other social media companies to reassess their data security practices and foreign ties as scrutiny over tech regulation intensifies.

Discussions about banning TikTok have often revolved around cybersecurity concerns not only related to TikTok but also to other social media platforms. Lisa Plaggemier, executive director of US-based nonprofit The National Cybersecurity Alliance, believes that these concerns are justified. She cites the potential exploitation of TikTok’s user base and the possibility of ByteDance facilitating access to user data by the Chinese government. Plaggemier also warns of fears that TikTok could be used for misinformation campaigns and data collection by foreign actors, particularly the Chinese government. Imposing cyber threats on users, including surveillance, data breaches, and manipulation of online discourse, could be amplified due to TikTok’s popularity among both adults and children.

Tim Ward, CEO and co-founder of UK-based startup Think Cyber, adds that while the US bill to ban TikTok is driven by national security concerns, it overlooks a larger issue. He argues that any unauthorized or personal tools used within a work context can pose security risks. Instead of focusing on banning specific technologies, there should be an emphasis on empowering individuals to identify red flags and avoid unsafe behaviors that leave them exposed to threats.

In conclusion, the US is moving closer to potentially banning TikTok, citing national security concerns related to China’s ownership of the app and its potential for data exploitation. However, the bill has not yet passed the Senate, and its ultimate fate is uncertain.

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