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Like, comment and subscribe no more: will TikTok be banned in the United States? 

MOORHEAD — TikTok, a popular social media platform used to share videos, could be banned from the United States within the next few months.  

On March 13, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act in a vote that saw 352 representatives vote in favor of the bill and 65 representatives vote against it.  

The bill, unofficially known as the “Ban TikTok Bill,” was introduced in the House on March 5 and requires applications found to be controlled by a foreign adversary to be divested from that control within 180 days of the bill going into effect. While the phrasing of the bill means it seeks to regulate any applications determined to be in adversarial control, TikTok, and its parent company ByteDance, are singled out by name. 

TikTok is a subsidiary of ByteDance Ltd., a privately owned Chinese technology firm. Tensions between the United States and China have increased in recent years and raised a number of concerns surrounding foreign policy and national defense The US government’s unease about TikTok comes from a set of national security bills the Chinese government put into place that compel companies to assist with intelligence gathering.  

The worry is that the Chinese government could demand that ByteDance and TikTok hand over user data from American consumers on TikTok whenever it wants, posing a risk to US national security.  

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has addressed concerns about US data security previously in hearings before Congress and has said that American user data is protected and not shared with the Chinese Communist Party.  

TikTok does collect data from its users, but it is not the only app to do so. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all collect information from its user base.  

“The potential of banning TikTok does not get at the concern that the politicians say they are getting at. The actual solution is what are the rules of data collection in general? How do we close off or control the sharing of this information. On social media we are the product. Why is there only a concern when China is the one getting that information,” said Indira Neill Hoch, an assistant professor in communications. 

Nicholas Howard, a professor in the political science department, said this isn’t the first bill the government has introduced that has tried to regulate TikTok, nor is it the most specific.  

“There are actually two other bills, Terminate TikTok is the name of a different bill in the House, and in the Senate is the No TikTok on Government Devices Act. So, this isn’t even the one (bill) most directly pointed at TikTok. It’s more about the foreign ownership of devices that can be used in and around government decision making,” Howard said. 

While TikTok is largely used as a platform for sharing short-term entertaining videos, such as dance trends or food tutorials, many also use the app to share news and information.  

A 2023 study from the Pew Research Center found that one-third of users between the ages of 18-29 get their news on TikTok.  

“TikTok sometimes does a good job of raising awareness that an issue exists. It can encourage you to look more into a topic. The app shows you not what you should think about an issue, but what are the important issues that you should be thinking about,” Neill Hoch said. 

Sophomore Caroline Becker said she often uses TikTok as a starting point for learning about a subject. 

“Even if it’s not the most credible information on the platform, it inspires me to seek out other sources of information on a topic,” Becker said.  

Public pushback against the bill has raised concerns that the government is overstepping its boundaries on what is within its right to legislate and whether or not they are violating Americans rights to freedom of speech by potentially cutting access to the platform. 

Howard said this is not the first time the US government has attempted to legislate data collection from social media platforms. 

“We saw it in the 2016 and 2020 elections with Facebook. The US government actually pushed Facebook to implement new policies on information distribution. [The government] essentially said you can do this, or we will make you, and they did it and the government didn’t have to pass the bill. So, is it a free speech concern? Yes. Is this a new thing in discussion of company ownership and the policies of media? No,” Howard said. 

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to take much longer before it comes before the floor for a vote.  

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