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Business News/ News / World/  TikTok says US House Bill to ban app would ‘trample free speech’, user data concerns continue ahead of Senate vote
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TikTok says US House Bill to ban app would ‘trample free speech’, user data concerns continue ahead of Senate vote

Many US lawmakers across party lines have voiced concerns about TikTok's Chinese parent Bytedance, and the possibility of national security risks if China compels the company to share the data of its 170 million American users

The TikTok logo is displayed outside its office in Culver City, California. The US House of Representatives on April 20, passed a bill that would force TikTok to divest from Chinese parent ByteDance or face a nationwide ban in the United States, where it has around 170 million users. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)Premium
The TikTok logo is displayed outside its office in Culver City, California. The US House of Representatives on April 20, passed a bill that would force TikTok to divest from Chinese parent ByteDance or face a nationwide ban in the United States, where it has around 170 million users. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)

TikTok has repeated its concerns that the approval of a Bill possibly banning the social media app in the United States, would trample on the “free speech" rights of American citizens, Reuters reported.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans," TikTok said in a statement.

The US House of Representatives on April 20 approved a Bill that could potentially ban the popular video social media platform from the country if it fails to divest from its Chinese parent Bytedance. The legislation was passed with a significant majority of 360 to 58 votes.

The bill is now set to proceed to the Senate, where it may undergo voting in the upcoming days. US President Joe Biden had previously indicated his readiness to endorse the legislation once it reaches his desk.

Lawmakers Concerned About China

Many lawmakers across party lines — from both Republican and Democratic parties, as well as the Biden administration, have voiced apprehensions about TikTok, citing national security concerns. They fear that China might coerce the company into sharing the data of its 170 million American users.

By incorporating TikTok into a broader foreign aid package, legislators aim to expedite the process of potentially banning the app, after a previous standalone bill faced obstacles in the Senate.

TikTok had previously criticised an earlier bill that failed to progress in the Senate, arguing that it would stifle the voices of millions of Americans. The platform also opposed a state-level ban in Montana last year, citing First Amendment violations. 

TikTok maintains that it has never shared American data and pledges not to do so in the future.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, highlighted concerns over TikTok potentially serving as a propaganda tool for the Chinese government, particularly among young users seeking news. 

"The idea that we would give the Communist Party this much of a propaganda tool as well as the ability to scrape 170 million Americans' personal data, it is a national security risk," he told CBS News.

Criticism Against Potential TikTok Ban

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has opposed the House bill on grounds of free speech.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has also criticised the latest bill, arguing that its effectiveness is limited, as adversaries such as China could still access American data through brokers and utilise US-based social media platforms for disinformation campaigns.

Some Democrats have also questioned the constitutionality of a ban, advocating instead for robust data privacy laws.

Democratic Representative Ro Khanna expressed doubts about the legal viability of a TikTok ban, citing constitutional protections for free speech.

Bill Amended in Latest Round

In a previous vote on March 13, the House had granted ByteDance approximately six months to divest TikTok's US assets or face a ban. The newly passed legislation extends this deadline to nine months, with a potential three-month extension subject to the president's evaluation of divestment progress.

Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, voiced support for the latest bill after requesting revisions to certain aspects of the March 13 bill.

The ownership of TikTok was also discussed during a recent call between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where Biden expressed concerns about the app's ownership.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Published: 22 Apr 2024, 07:08 AM IST
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