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What’s the TikTok Ban Really About?

What’s the TikTok Ban Really About?
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Picking up where the RESTRICT Act left off, a new bill supposedly aimed at banning TikTok gives the federal government broad powers to control how we communicate. Action Alert!


  • Legislation effectively banning TikTok is rocketing through Congress.
  • The bill contains broad provisions that not only ban TikTok or any other app or platform related to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, but it allows the President the power to ban any other app or platform owned, even in part, by a so-called “foreign adversary” if it is deemed to be a national security threat.
  • While there are genuine concerns about data security of all online apps and platforms, this legislation puts us on a slippery slope to more authoritarian control over communication on the internet, and whatever you think of TikTok’s danger to US interests, this bill should be opposed given its powers are likely to curb our access to less censored free speech platforms.

Would you like to give the President of the United States unilateral power to control online information? Then the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” is just the bill for you.

We wrote about a similar measure last year (the RESTRICT Act), and though some of the details differ, the overarching framework—and the threats to free speech contained therein—are largely the same. The bill is supposed to address the threat of TikTok and other information and communication technology platforms owned by its privately-owned parent company ByteDance, which was founded in Beijing, incorporated in the Cayman Islands, and apparently “has over 150,000 employees based out of nearly 120 cities globally, including Austin, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore, and Tokyo.” Whether you believe TikTok should be banned or not, this bill is a massive overreach and, as some have contended, is a gift to the Deep State.

The bill creates the mechanism to ban TikTok by stating that any “foreign adversary controlled application” must divest from its parent company within six months or face federal prohibition.

But this goes beyond just TikTok. The bill defines a “foreign adversary controlled application” as a website or app that is operated by ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok), TikTok, or any of their subsidiaries. So far, so good. But also included in this definition is a company that is “controlled by a foreign adversary” that is determined by the President to “present a significant threat to the national security of the United States.” We won’t get into the weeds about what it means for a company to be “controlled” by a foreign adversary, but the language is vague enough to give the federal government plenty of leeway.

Whatever you may think of the threat posed by Chinese ownership of TikTok to the United States, and the 120 million Americans who currently use the short video app, the provisions in this bill are broad enough to give the government—and especially the incumbent president—significant new powers to censor and control communications on the internet.

This bill is on the move. It passed unanimously out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a 50-0 vote and passed the full House with an impressive 352-64 margin. It is supported by President Biden and the national security apparatus.

One of the main points we made in opposition to the RESTRICT Act was the danger of a slippery slope: today, the “national security threat” is China and TikTok, but what’s next?

Consider this example: an encrypted messaging app called Telegram was used by grassroots activists to organize the Worldwide Freedom Rally in 2022, a pushback against lockdowns and the removal of civil liberties, as well as other grassroots protests. Authoritarians don’t like this because they cannot monitor the communications on these encrypted messages to snuff out or disrupt challenges to state power. If Telegram was based in a country deemed a “foreign adversary”—or had 20% or more ownership by nationals from a foreign adversary country (currently considered under 10 U.S. Code § 4872 to be China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia)—the federal government can shut it down. Guess what, Telegram is owned by freedom supporting Russian nationals, Nikolai and Pavel Durov. So that could be banned too. What next? Would we all have to put our trust in the likes of Mr. Zuckerberg?

Any legislation that gives the government such broad powers to act against vaguely defined threats to national security should give us all pause, especially if we look at the record for how these types of measures evolve once they are enacted. If this passes, it becomes even easier for the government expand the entities that are subject to this type of authoritarian control. Maybe apps or websites that allow the dissemination of natural health information during a “public health emergency” start to be considered national security threats. These things tend to start small and then snowball while no one is looking—all in the name of “protecting us.”

We cannot so easily give up our hard fought liberty and freedom of speech.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to oppose the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. Please send your message immediately.

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