A nationwide ban in the US is looming large for TikTok. The US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday to give President Joe Biden the power to ban the Chinese social media app. The bill, known as the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries (DATA) Act, now needs to pass through the Senate and the rest of the House before reaching Biden’s desk (via).
Introduced by Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) last Friday, the DATA Act passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with a 24-16 vote. All Democrats reportedly voted against the bill but that united opposition was not enough. If the bill gets the same favor in the rest of the House, Biden will be able to impose a nationwide ban on TikTok. The US President can block all transactions with the app in the country. This will effectively prevent citizens from downloading and using the app on their phones.
Biden last month said that he is unsure if the US would impose an outright ban on TikTok. “I’m not sure. I know I don’t have it on my phone,” he said responding to a reporter’s query. However, the popular video-focused social media app has been already banned from government-owned devices, including phones and computers. The US House of Representatives and more than 30 states have also announced similar bans. All of them cited the same national security threat highlighted by FBI Director Christopher Wray in December 2022.
Wray said TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance may open backdoors for the nation’s authoritarian government to access the data of American users. This possesses a serious threat to the security of the US and its citizens. Those concerns were compounded by TikTok’s recent admission that it spied on some US-based journalists. The company didn’t help itself there. No one is now believing its claim that it will not hand over user data to the Chinese government in any circumstance. It has moved its US servers to the US, but that didn’t help either.
TikTok is staring at a nationwide ban in the US
If the DATA Act reaches Biden and he passes it, TikTok could lose a huge chunk of its users. The app is used by more than 100 million Americans. India imposed a nationwide ban on the app a few years ago, while the European Union and Canada also recently followed the US to ban it on government devices. TikTok, meanwhile, continues to plead innocence. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch that its American unit is a US company subject to federal law. China has no control over it.
“A US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in an emailed statement. “We’re disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward, despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok”. Time will tell what’s next for the social media biggie. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the US Energy and Commerce Committee later this month. We will keep you posted.