TikTok’s Chief Executive, Shou Zi Chew, is set to testify this week before a House committee as Congress considers tougher regulations and potentially an outright ban against the popular social media company. With 150 million monthly users in the US alone, TikTok’s reach is immense, making it difficult to overstate its impact. While TikTok exploded in popularity during the pandemic, concerns have long existed regarding the company’s data practices and its ties to the Chinese government.
Congress looking to ban social media platform
Specifically, there are concerns that personal information of Americans could be handed over to the Chinese government, potentially allowing for manipulation of opinions or even meddling in US elections. In addition, there is concern about the app’s addictiveness, especially among young people. Lawmakers fear that TikTok’s popularity with Gen Z could allow China to influence or soften Americans through propaganda campaigns.
Moreover, governors in several states and the federal government have already taken attempts to limit TikTok’s reach, banning it from devices they control. Recently, the Biden administration told TikTok executives that they must find an American buyer or be acquired by someone else if they want to continue operating in the US. However, TikTok argues that their corporate owner, ByteDance, is not an agent of China and that divestiture would not solve the data issues. Furthermore, TikTok has already spent $1.5 billion to ensure the privacy of Americans’ data, with a firewall between the US and China in place.
A TikTok ban could be significant
The political risks of enacting a ban on TikTok in the US could be significant, as it is a hugely popular social media platform, with one in three Americans using it. Younger voters are especially likely to use TikTok, and they skew heavily Democratic. However, the concerns around TikTok go beyond those of other social media platforms due to the app’s ties to China, making it difficult for national security experts to avoid addressing these concerns.
While there are concerns about misinformation and data practices across all social media platforms, TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government have made it a target of bipartisan concern in Congress. The upcoming hearing with TikTok’s CEO will shed light on the company’s plans to address these concerns and its position on potential regulations or a ban.