WASHINGTON — The House is poised to pass legislation Wednesday that could ban TikTok in the U.S. as Republicans and Democrats alike sound the alarm that the popular video-sharing app is a national security threat.

TikTok, owned by China-based parent company ByteDance, is mounting an aggressive lobbying campaign to kill the legislation, arguing that it would violate the First Amendment rights of its 170 million U.S. users and harm thousands of small businesses that rely on it.

“You will be destroying small businesses like us; this is our livelihood. We’ve created success,” Paul Tran, who, with his wife, has a skin care company called Love and Pebble, said at a pro-TikTok rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday.

He said their business nearly shut down last year until TikTok Shop came along and “totally exploded our business.” Now 90% of their business comes from the app, he said.

“If you pass this bill,” Tran said, “you will be destroying the American Dream that we really believe in.”

Despite that push, the bipartisan bill is expected to sail through the House and be sent to the Senate, where lawmakers say they are still evaluating it. President Joe Biden has said that if the bill reaches his desk, he will sign it into law.

Its backers say it’s wrong to call the legislation an outright ban. Dubbed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, the bill would create a process for the president — through the FBI and intelligence agencies — to designate certain social media applications under the control of foreign adversaries, like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, as national security threats.

Once an app was deemed a risk, it would be banned from online app stores and web-hosting services unless it severed ties with entities under control of the foreign adversary within 180 days of the designation. That means TikTok, which FBI Director Christopher Wray has testified poses a risk to national security, could face a ban unless ByteDance acted quickly to divest it.

“What we’re after is a separation from TikTok from its parent company, ByteDance, and by extension CCP,” the bill’s author, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chairman of the select committee investigating the Chinese Communist Party, said Tuesday as he left a classified all-House briefing about the dangers of TikTok. “And in that world, TikTok users can continue to use the platform. In fact, I think it would allow for a better user experience.”

U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials worry the Chinese government could use TikTok to access personal data from its millions of users and use algorithms to show them videos that could influence their views, including in the coming presidential election. Testifying before Congress a year ago, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew denied that the Chinese government controls the app and pushed back against suggestions that China accesses U.S. user data.

In writing the bill, Gallagher teamed up with the top Democrat on the China panel, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, who consulted with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., an outspoken critic of China’s human rights violations throughout her long career.

“My concern is about what TikTok has done in Taiwan, saying that the Uyghurs love their genocide and the people of Hong Kong love their voter suppression,” Pelosi told reporters.

But she added: “We want TikTok to exist; we’re not here to ban it. I’ve said we want to make it Tik-Tok-Toe. We want to make it something that is not a fearful social media platform but one that is very positive. And in order to do that, we have to see the divesting of it from the Chinese government having custodial possession of the data. … Who controls the algorithm controls all of it. … It is a national security issue. And it’s a personal security issue.”

The multibillion-dollar social media behemoth’s presence was everywhere on Capitol Hill ahead of the House vote. TikTok users got pop-ups on the app urging them to call their local representatives, as well as push notifications saying: “Help stop the TikTok shutdown.”

Outside the Capitol, a handful of young House Democrats — Robert Garcia and Sarah Jacobs of California, Maxwell Frost of Florida and Delia Ramirez of Illinois — rallied alongside TikTok creators to express their opposition to the bill.

Frost, 27, called himself a “hell no” on the bill and predicted that if the vote had been delayed by a week, opposition would have grown.

JT Laybourne, one of the creators, said he is “disgusted” to hear lawmakers mocking TikTok and the creators on it because millions of small businesses rely on it.

“My voice is on TikTok. My purpose is on TikTok. That’s it. We can’t let this happen,” Laybourne pleaded.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *