Is Tiktok Heading for a Blockage in the US?

The president of the United States attempted to ban the program based in China, and some states have already outlawed its use on official devices.

The United States government has taken an extraordinary step and issued a ban on using the TikTok app on all devices used by the federal government. 

The limits, which were slipped into a spending package only days before it was passed by Congress and signed by Joe Biden on Thursday, have added to the mounting uncertainty regarding the app’s Future in the United States in the wake of a crackdown by state and federal legislators.

ByteDance, the company that owns the app and is located in China, is reportedly a threat to national security, which is why officials claim the ban is required. But it also leaves many questions unsolved. 

What were the motivations behind the ban?

Because of concerns regarding TikTok’s parent firm, ByteDance, which is based in China, the United States government has decided to prohibit its use on devices given by the federal government. 

The United States is concerned that the Chinese government may exploit TikTok to gain access to user data and devices US citizens use.

Brooke Oberwetter, a representative for TikTok, stated that the firm was “disappointed” to hear that Congress had decided to press forward with the idea and that the company viewed.

Because of the restriction, in around two months, federal government employees will be compelled to delete the TikTok app from any government-issued devices unless they are using the app in connection with national security or law enforcement activities.

The director of the United States Office of Management and Budget and the directors of other offices have been given sixty days to devise guidelines and procedures that will enable all government employees to delete the application from their mobile devices. 

TikTok has already been prohibited at several federal agencies, including the White House and the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State; hence, its use by those employees won’t be affected in any way. 

In addition, Catherine Szpindor, the top administrator of the House of Representatives, issued an order earlier this week telling all staff members and MPs to erase the program from their respective electronic devices.

Image courtesy of slashgear

Read:How Chinese Startups Are Breaking Into the U.S. Market

How did we get here?

Concerns over TikTok’s impact on national security in the United States date back years.

After an unsuccessful attempt to ban TikTok in 2020, Donald Trump’s bipartisan efforts to regulate and restrict usage of the app reached a fever pitch in 2022 after news sources claimed that employees of ByteDance had access to information about US TikTok users.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri claims that the video platform TikTok is a front for the Chinese Communist Party.

Warnings issued by the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, that the Chinese government could use the app to acquire access to the devices used by users in the United States added fuel to the fire of national security worries. 

In recent months, the use of TikTok on devices given by state governments in some states with Republican governors and legislatures, such as Texas, South Dakota, and Virginia, has been made illegal.

TikTok was referred to as a “Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist party” by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley in April when he sponsored legislation similar to the current legislation. 

Earlier in December, the legislation received unanimity of support from the Senate, and its general outlines were essentially mirrored in the prohibition that was ultimately enacted on Friday.

Have authorities in other nations taken measures against TikTok that are comparable to these?

Even though several nations, like Indonesia, have lifted their temporary restrictions on TikTok, India remains the largest country in the world that does not let its citizens download or use the app. 

After a fatal border clash with China, India permanently banned TikTok along with more than 50 other Chinese applications, citing concerns for the country’s national security. 

At most, the national prohibitions implemented in other nations have lasted for a few months.

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Should we have a greater degree of concern over TikTok than we do regarding other apps?

It is determined by the person you ask.  Still, other apps and services offer government entities equal access to user data, including in the United States, according to several digital privacy and civil advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Fight for the FutureFuture.

According to Evan Greer, head of Fight for the FutureFuture, “unless we’re also [going to] prohibit Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Uber and Grubhub, this is worthless.” 

“Yes, it is possible that the Chinese government can acquire access to data through TikTok in a slightly easier manner than it can through other apps; nonetheless, there are just so many methods in which governments can collect data from apps.”

However, legislators from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have submitted measures and voiced their support for initiatives to restrict the usage of TikTok. 

In addition to the bill that Hawley has proposed, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has proposed legislation prohibiting the corporation from operating anywhere in the United States. 

The Democrat representing Virginia in the United States Senate, Mark Warner, has voiced support for measures to prevent government agencies from using the video-sharing app TikTok and has urged additional states to “take action to keep our federal technology out of the grasp of the CCP.”

Read: Why Americans do and DON’T want Trump?

In what way does this prohibition impact relations between countries around the world?

In recent years, the United States has increased its work to address possible challenges to national security posed by China. 

Among these measures is adding other Chinese firms and entities to a blocklist that the Department of Commerce maintains. 

The significance of TikTok is a component of this more comprehensive movement, yet, several organizations have expressed worry that a ban on the site will inspire China to take action of a similar nature.

It would harm the American economy to prohibit app downloads because their parent company is located in another country.

She indicated that other nations might attempt to obstruct access to American web services for the same reasons, which would be detrimental to the economies of both countries.

A champion for privacy, suggested, following the positions of other privacy advocates, that “policymakers should pursue more promising solutions that address the basic problems.”

Diebold argued that Congress should establish federal privacy laws to protect customer data. 

These laws would, among other things, compel businesses to disclose with whom they share data and hold them accountable for those assertions. 

He argued that Congress should establish federal privacy laws to protect customer data.

Read: Meta Agrees to Pay $725M in Cambridge Analytica Lawsuit Settlement

One day, the United States of America may make it absolutely illegal to use the TikTok app.

TikTok has been the subject of more than one proposed legislation in the United States, making it illegal to use the app. 

For example, the plan proposed by Senator Rubio would end all of the company’s business operations in the United States.

On the other hand, it has yet to be shown whether such prohibitions are effective. 

The court’s decision to overturn Trump’s earlier attempt to ban new users from downloading TikTok was influenced by worries about free expression. 

Rubio’s measure and other similar proposed laws to prohibit TikTok from pretending to “defend America from China’s totalitarian government” do, however, adopt “one of the characteristics of the Chinese internet strategy,” according to Kurt Opsahl, general counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 

It would prohibit TikTok from pretending to “defend America from China’s totalitarian government.” 

Image courtesy of scmp

Similar proposed laws would also prohibit TikTok from pretending to Opsahl stated that although governments can control how their employees use devices controlled by the government, they do not have the same authority to prevent members of the general public from downloading and using applications such as TikTok.

He said that while worries regarding security, privacy, and TikTok’s relationships with the Chinese government are warranted, a total ban is not the answer to the problem.

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