15 Mar 2024 ///

The US House of Representatives passes a bill that could ban TikTok throughout the USA

In a highly unusual mutually-agreed consensus between both Democrats and Republicans in the United States House of Representatives, one of the two chambers in the United States Congress, lawmakers have voted to pass a bill that could see social media TikTok banned in the country, making its use and proliferation a federal crime. The House holds the primary responsibility for drafting and passing federal legislation, along with the second chamber, the Senate – where the legislation is set to go next for review.

This is the latest in tense relations between the United States and one of its greatest challengers, China. Supporters of the bill contend that TikTok presents a national security concern due to the potential for exploitation by the Chinese government, which could leverage its intelligence regulations to compel the app’s parent company, ByteDance, into relinquishing the data of American app users. In truly American fashion, the bill has an negotiation addendum; the bill can be halted provided that ByteDance forfeit and sell its controlling stake (certainly to a US company), effectively severing the beloved content apps’ ties to China. The House’ steadfast interest in this bill is considered ironic, given only last year that US-company Meta was fined a staggering €1.2 billion by European Union regulators for violating EU privacy laws, after it had transferred the personal data of Facebook users to servers in the United States. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson stated that “apps like TikTok allow the Chinese Communist Party to push harmful content to our youth and engage in malign activities, such as harvesting the location, purchasing habits, contacts, and sensitive data of Americans. Today’s bipartisan vote demonstrates Congress’s opposition to Communist China’s attempts to spy on and manipulate Americans, and signals our resolve to deter our enemies.” 

This comes at a terrible outcry from some of TikTok’s 150 million American user – the biggest audience on the app, by far. TikTok has become one of the single leaders in an increasingly monopolised social media landscape of ‘grassroots’ content creation – with millions of users worldwide monetising their accounts for income at varying degrees, fostering niche communities, engaging in trends – all the while real-time news is shared, without the interface of corporations and media conglomerates. Many have speculated that this is the true intention of the bill; a potential insistence by the US government that this is an aspect of American life that they cannot survey, nor narratives that they cannot control.

Content Creation photographed by George Milton, via Pexels

TikTok photographed by Cottonbro Studio, via Pexels

Tensions between China and America continue to persist on multiple fronts, including trade disputes, technological competition, human rights concerns, and geopolitical issues – with these tensions stem from differing ideologies and strategic interests. This ongoing rivalry – as with all geopolitics – puts everyday people at the centre of the ‘fight’, usually without our consent. TikTok’s unique and particular user experiences are lauded by people as dissolving barriers and fostering connectivity – in a world that has been globalised by geopolitics, TikTok appears to be one of the few ways in which social media users can seek connection and creativity, in a stripped back and less ‘curated’ format than an app like Instagram, for example. 

Shou Chow, TikTok’s CEO, issued a statement via X and TikTok, urging US citizens to ‘protect their constitutional rights’ and lobby their local representatives. In an age of increasing surveillance, data privacy infringements and governmental control (in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres) this is a developing story and one in which we hope the users themselves are able to make the choice that they wish to see.

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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