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Why the American authorities want to ban TikTok

Why the American authorities want to ban TikTok


Washington — Legislation that could lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok was approved by the Senate Tuesday evening in a bipartisan vote of 79-18, posing one of the most serious threats to U.S. operations. immensely popular social media app.

Some lawmakers insist they don't want to ban the platform used by about 170 million Americans, arguing that the choice is up to TikTok's China-based parent company ByteDance.

For TikTok to continue operating in the United States, ByteDance must sell its stake in TikTok, and it has up to a year to do so, according to the law. But the Chinese government, which would have to approve any sale, opposes a forced sale. Without a divestiture, the company would lose access to app stores and web hosting providers, banning it in the United States. The deadline could be extended by an expected legal battle.

“This is not an effort to take away your voice. … This is not a ban on a service you value,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said Tuesday and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a speech acknowledging that many Americans are skeptical of the legislation. “Ultimately, they didn’t see what Congress saw.”

Why does Congress want to ban TikTok?

Lawmakers are suspicious of the video-sharing app's ties to China and have tried to regulate it, although previous efforts to broadly restrict it have failed. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that TikTok threatens national security because the Chinese government could use it to spy on Americans or weaponize it to covertly influence the American public by amplifying or removing certain content.

U.S. officials say the concern is justified because China's national security laws require organizations to cooperate in intelligence collection. FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the House Intelligence Committee in March that the Chinese government could compromise U.S. devices through the software.

“This app is a spy balloon into Americans' phones” that is “used to monitor and exploit Americans' personal information,” Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Saturday. representatives, before the lower house adopts the decision. bill as part of a broader foreign aid package.

In classified briefings, lawmakers learned “how rivers of data are being collected and shared in ways that do not align with American security interests,” Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said Tuesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last month that the Chinese government has the ability to influence “a lot of young people” who use TikTok as their primary source of information.

“This is a national security issue,” Rubio said.

Warner said Tuesday that Chinese diplomats' lobbying of congressional staff against the legislation, first reported by Politico, shows “how much [Chinese President] Xi Jinping is invested in this product. »

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, called the lobbying effort “a stunning confirmation of the value the Chinese government places on its ability to access Americans' information and shape their TikTok experience.” .

Arguments against banning TikTok

TikTok has denied being beholden to the Chinese government and accused lawmakers who want to restrict it of trampling on citizens' free speech. TikTok executive Michael Beckerman called the legislation “unconstitutional” and vowed to take legal action, according to an internal company memo obtained by CBS News and sent to TikTok staff on Saturday.

“We will continue to fight, because this legislation is a blatant violation of the First Amendment rights of the 170 million Americans on TikTok and would have devastating consequences for the 7 million small businesses who use TikTok to reach new customers, sell their products and create new jobs is the beginning, not the end of this long process,” the memo said.

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said on the Senate floor Tuesday that TikTok poses national security risks, but that the legislation amounts to “censorship” because it could deny Americans access to a platform they rely on for their information, business, building community and connecting with others.

“We need to be very clear about the likely outcome of this law,” Markey said. “It's really just a ban on TikTok. And once we properly recognize that this bill is a ban on TikTok, we can better see its impact on free speech.”

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, wrote in a recent opinion piece that the law could be a gateway to forcing the government to sell other companies.

“If the damage to one company was not enough, there is a very real danger that this brutal attack on TikTok will give the government the power to force the sale of other companies,” he wrote and predicted that the Supreme Court would do it. ultimately declaring the law unconstitutional.

Nikole Killion and Alan He contributed reporting.

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