The popular but intensely scrutinized video-sharing app TikTok could soon be facing a ban in the United States. Lawmakers are reviving efforts to expel the platform due to ongoing national security concerns about its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

The bill, titled the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act”, seeks to give the President power to ban social media companies deemed under the control of foreign adversaries, specifically countries like China. If passed, the bill could force ByteDance to divest TikTok. The core concern revolves around the potential for the Chinese government to access American user data collected by TikTok. Lawmakers fear this information could be used for surveillance or to influence public opinion, posing a significant national security risk.

TikTok has persistently denied the allegations that it shares user data with the Chinese government. The company has taken steps to distance itself from China, storing U.S. user data within the country and working with Oracle, a U.S.-based company, to manage its data operations. However, these actions have not fully alleviated the concerns of lawmakers.
Should the bill pass and ByteDance opt not to sell, U.S.-based app stores and web hosting services would be barred from distributing the app to the public. Thursday saw a surge in calls to Congressional offices following pop-up messages from the company urging people to voice their opposition to the bill.

In a statement on Monday, Ryan Walker, Vice President of Heritage Action for America, highlighted TikTok’s extensive social manipulation tactics, which were prominently exhibited last week. Foreign actors resorted to the app in a frantic attempt to mobilize its 170 million American users to contact members of Congress, urging them to oppose the bill. This effort resulted in alarming instances of callers issuing threats of suicide and violence, underscoring the necessity of this legislation.

The bill is expected to face a vote in the House of Representatives this week. Proponents cite an urgent need to protect national security. The future of TikTok hinges on the result of the upcoming House vote this week and any subsequent decisions made by the President. (President Biden has recently stated his intention to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.)

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