TikTok Users Taken Aback By Ban

Ezruh Hacker, Staff

United States citizens are shocked by a recent bill being used to ban an app used by approximately 41% of the American population called TikTok. The primary case that government officials are making is that the app violates data security and that they feel the information provided by users may be collected and sold to the Chinese government. The S.686 – RESTRICT act is far more than what it’s being made out to be. 

Whether or not banning TikTok is a violation of first amendment rights is a topic that has been heavily debated in the United States. 

AP Government teacher, Mychal Limric, said, “I don’t think the ban is bridging TikTok’s first amendment right, so I think the people who are advocating for no ban whatsoever need to check themselves. I mean, companies have rights, but foreign companies don’t have first amendment rights in the United States because the first amendment protects American citizens,”  

Limric says that this bill gives a taste of the tension between first amendment rights and security and privacy. 

“With that being said, there are American companies that also violate our privacy too, and they probably need to be checked too. There are all these conversations about having first amendment rights and we do, but they are limited to individuals and speech.”  

Limric wondered if there’s a way to do things that you can do on TikTok on other platforms 

“So maybe someone could have something like TikTok without potentially damaging national security. But then again, I’m not convinced that’s the case. I don’t want to say I’m against TikTok because it’s hurting our national security because no one has proven that to me yet. It seems that in this day and age, someone could prove that, and it’d be pretty easy,” Limric said. 

According to Senate bill 686, introduced March 7, the RESTRICT act will allow the United States government to own, control or manage any form of information and communications technology or services that has more than 1,000,000 active users in the United States. If any transaction is considered unacceptable, use of that service may become prohibited. If anyone uses or tries to use any of the illegal services, they may get a fine of up to $1 million in U.S. dollars, 20 years in prison or both.   

It’s rare to find someone who’s fully read up on the bill and the meaning behind it.  

“I don’t necessarily know what it is. I probably should though. When I look it up, it seems to prohibit certain transactions between persons in the United States and foreign adversaries. So, it’s not even just about TikTok. It’s about foreign influences,” Civics and Psychology teacher Margaret Reynolds said. 

Some people are aware of the bill but have not fully read up on it. 

“I’ve seen it floating around online and I know the basic idea of it not specifically targeting TikTok,” said sophomore Kimberly Price, who spends a lot of time on TikTok.   

Many know about the ban, but not of the bill enacting it. Sophomore Alyssa Wilmoth makes videos on TikTok sometimes says she has heard of the ban but not its specifics. 

“I’ve heard some people talk about it, but I don’t know anything about it,” said Wilmoth. 

In the United States, the TikTok ban originated in 2020 under the Trump administration, calling action against the alleged data security violation. This call was later dropped.  

However, the concerns with TikTok began to rise again in December 2022, when a bill to ban the popular app from all government devices was proposed. In February 2023, the Biden administration ordered that TikTok be removed from all government devices in just 30 days.  

Although the Biden administration didn’t seem to advocate for banning it from all devices, some lawmakers, such as Missouri’s Senator Josh Harley, are looking to take the ban even further by prohibiting it from running in the United States at all. TikTok even filed a lawsuit against Montana for creating a bill that would completely ban the app as early as next year. 

TikTok, though designed to be a dancing app, is used in many ways by its community. For example, thousands of small businesses use TikTok to launch and promote their businesses to a target audience, and they often gain a large source of their income through the app.  Additionally, TikTok is a major platform in terms of finding information about what’s going on in the world, how it affects people, and what they can do to make change. The algorithm, by many, is used to organize social and political gatherings.