By Jy’Ahzhannae Taylor
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
TikTok is an app owned by a Chinese company, Bytedance, that launched in 2017. Amid the pandemic, the app became famous in 2019 and 2020, generating over 1 billion users.
The app has gained controversy among foreign governments like the United States and Europe, with the cause of concern that Bytedance has access to sensitive user information and possibly sells it to the Chinese government. The United States government and lawmakers have grown to believe that China’s laws allow its apps to collect intelligence-gathering operations.
According to The New York Times, on Feb. 27, the White House gave a notice that TikTok had 30 days to be removed from government devices.
The United States government isn't the only country to rid officials of TikTok. Britain, Canada, France, New Zealand's parliament, and the executive arm of the European Union have rid official devices of the app.
More than two-dozen states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices since November. A few colleges and universities, like Auburn University, Florida A&M University, Boise State, University of Mississippi, Texas A&M and Texas State, have blocked the app from campus Wi-Fi networks. The ban has not been extended to personal devices, though, allowing students to use their cellular data for the app.
On March 1, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to approve a bill that grants President Joe Biden the ability to ban the app from all devices nationwide. According to TikTok, the Biden administration wants its Chinese ownership to sell the app or face a possible ban. The New York Times noted TikTok has been having continuing talks with the administration's review panel and the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States to address the concerns about TikTok and Bytedance's relationship with the Chinese government and their use of TikTok data.
38-year-old Jackie Brown is an event planner who finds TikTok resourceful for party ideas and entertainment. She stated, "I don't think it's fair there are so many other things going on in the world that the government should focus on banning" when asked about her thoughts.
TikTok has undoubtedly become a portal for educating people on just about anything, and has become known as a super-resourceful app.
Chuck Dubem, a junior at the University at Buffalo, was asked how valuable the TikTok app has been for him. He stated, "One thing I can say is TikTok has taught me you can make an income doing anything."
Paul Richardson, a senior at Niagara University, was asked to speak on his thoughts on the TikTok ban. He said the app has provided him with valuable information about the school, helped with his career with job hunting, and provided insight into different sports teams he's a fan of. He believes the ban is unfair, because the app has provided a lot of information to people that helps them in their hobbies, interests and life.
The TikTok ban has raised many concerns about violating Americans' First Amendment rights, as blocking the app could stop people from the freedom to exercise their opinions. Right now, people might only see a silly little app being taken away from society as an appeasement to spying controversy. However, it is much deeper than just an app being taken away.
Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act is the bill that congress approved for Biden. It establishes a risk-based process tailored to rapidly changing technology and environmental threats. It directs the Department of Commerce to identify and mitigate threats to foreign information and communications technology and product services.
The RESTRICT Act outlines unlawful acts that can result in civil and or criminal penalties. A criminal violation will require specific intent – committing a wrongful action willingly can result in fines up to $250,000. Criminal penalties can result in fines of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to 20 years.
At first glance, the RESTRICT Act may seem like a ban on TikTok; however, it is much more than that. The new bill will propose that the government restrict access to foreign apps with over 100 million users.
Banning TikTok under the RESTRICT Act will overall be a challenging task. It has yet to be made clear how removing a personal phone and the concern of breaking the First Amendment will come about.
TikTok has been working to change the minds of congress members and U.S. officials; however, the United States believes that TikTok is dangerous.
This is a Niagara University student-created piece completed as part of the course CMS 226A. For more information, contact the Niagara Frontier Publications’ managing editor.