ACLU Denounces House Bill to Ban TikTok Supported by White House

by State Brief


A bill to ban TikTok has set the Biden administration and a civil rights advocacy group at odds.

The “Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on March 5. The policy would classify ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, and the video-sharing platforms as foreign adversary-controlled applications.

The bill was sponsored by Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher and Illinois Congresswoman Raja Krishnamoorthi – the leaders of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” said Gallagher, the select committee’s chairman, in a joint statement. “America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States. TikTok’s time in the United States is over unless it ends its relationship with CCP-controlled ByteDance.”

“So long as it is owned by ByteDance and thus required to collaborate with the CCP, TikTok poses critical threats to our national security,” added Krishnamoorthi. “Our bipartisan legislation would protect American social media users by driving the divestment of foreign adversary-controlled apps to ensure that Americans are protected from the digital surveillance and influence operations of regimes that could weaponize their personal data against them.”

If passed, the bill would allow the president to designate foreign adversary-controlled applications in the future. TikTok would be prohibited from being available in America via an app store if it does not fully separate from any entity based in China. The policy also requires that the prohibited app allow users to download their data and content in order to transition to another platform if necessary.

The House Select Committee stressed that the bill will not censor speech or punish individual users of the platform.

The Biden administration applauded the bill.

“The Administration has worked with Members of Congress from both parties to arrive at a durable legislative solution that would address the threat of technology services operating in the United States in a way that poses risks to Americans’ sensitive data and our broader national security,” said a spokesperson for the National Security Council according to Punchbowl News. “This bill is an important and welcome step to address that threat.”

The federal government’s praise contrasts with a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the ban would violate the First Amendment rights of the millions of Americans who use TikTok every day.

“We’re deeply disappointed that our leaders are once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year,” said ACLU senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff. “Just because the bill sponsors claim that banning TikTok isn’t about suppressing speech, there’s no denying that it would do just that. We strongly urge legislators to vote no on this unconstitutional bill.”

TikTok also opposes the policy.

“This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs,” Alex Haurek, a spokesperson for the company, told The Hill.

The bill is scheduled to be reviewed on March 7 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.



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