Last Thursday, March 23, a congressional hearing was held due to U.S. privacy concerns over TikTok. The app’s CEO, Shoe Zi Chew, testified in court and notably stated that TikTok would not cut ties with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, as the Biden administration demanded, with threats of a ban if the app’s owners did not comply.
Congressional concerns stem from China’s laws that would require ByteDance to hand over user-data to the Chinese government if requested, and allow for control over what U.S. users see on the app.
However, the proposed bill could change the way we use the Internet forever; Giving the government control over more than just the social media app TikTok, the RESTRICT Act also includes technologies such as routers, home cameras, and VPNs that are produced by any foreign adversaries.
Anyone who uses a VPN to access banned apps or websites could face up to $1 million in fines and/or up to 20 years in prison.
During the trial, when asked about how Tiktok planned to protect American safety, Zi Chew outlined the ways that TikTok plans to move forward to create a safer environment for users and their data.
ZI CHEW: There are more than 150 million Americans who love our platform and we know we have a responsibility to protect them, which is why I’m making the following commitments to you and to all our users. Number one, we will keep safety, particularly for teenagers, as a top priority for us. Number two, we will firewall protect the U.S. data from unwanted foreign access. Number three, TikTok will remain a place for free expression and will not be manipulated by any government. The ADA is not here in American soil.
He has made it abundantly clear that TikTok is a space created for people to share their passions on a public platform. TikTok also has aided in the growth and success of small businesses.
When asked about Byte Dance, Zi Chew ensured Byte Dance was a private company and not controlled by the Chinese government. He also stated that the TikTok headquarters are based in the United States.
He also explains that TikTok has strong security credentials necessary for all users in order to keep American data from foreign lands.
Other nations, like India have already banned the platform around the middle of 2020 when the government investigated fifty-nine Chinese-owned apps, resulting in data leaks to servers outside of the nation
The bill which would grant the president power to ban TikTok was voted to move forward and now the conversation heads to House Republicans.
For many, TikTok is a space where people have the freedom to express themselves in a new, creative fashion. It has become a space for influencers, companies, brands, activists, and many others to find a community.
The Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries, or DATA, Act, would no longer grant protections for such creative content, specifically targeting platforms such as TikTok.
For Annenberg Media, I’m Isa Johnson.