FOR THE WEEK OF MAR. 20, 2023
Why TikTok faces possible U.S. government scrutiny . . . or even a ban
React to a quote in a news story or commentary (including reader letter) on this topic.
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Pick two facts from coverage of another social network or media company.
Talk about cracking down on TikTok gains momentum in Washington, D.C. The White House backs a new Senate bill that could let it ban the popular video-sharing app because it's based in China and raises spying concerns. The Biden administration, which wants to keep China from seeing data, locations and viewing trends from about 100 million U.S. users, will "urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the president's desk," says national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Officials also worry that Chinese authorities could influence what TikTok content Americans see. Congress late last year voted that federal agencies must eliminate TikTok from phones and systems. That follows similar actions by Canada, the European Union, Taiwan and more than half of American states.
The firm's American branch insists that its data is secure and that the Chinese government doesn't control ByteDance, its parent company in Beijing (the capital). "We're disappointed to see this rushed piece of [Senate] legislation move forward despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok," the company tweeted this month.
The proposed law, introduced two weeks ago by six Democrats and six Republicans, would allow risk reviews of tech products sold or run by companies connected to officially designated foreign adversaries such as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. TikTok is the main target now, though it's not mentioned in the bill. A more sweeping House version, which Democrats blocked in committee this month, would have required penalties on certain companies. The administration's goal is to prod ByteDance to leave the U.S. market or sell its operation here to an American owner.
When it comes to its own citizens, China prohibits Google, Twitter and The New York Times, among other American information sources. But a TikTok crackdown in this country would anger countless young voters, even Biden's commerce secretary knows. "The politician in me thinks you're gonna literally lose every voter under 35, forever," says Cabinet member Gina Raimondo, a former Rhode Island governor. The last president ordered TikTok and and the WeChat messaging service (also based in China) banned from app stores in 2020, but a federal judge blocked that as a free speech violation. Biden's team hopes congressional action would "strengthen their hand in any future battle either to negotiate with TikTok or to negotiate with the court," explains James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Congressman says: "TikTok is a modern-day Trojan horse of the [Chinese Communist Party], used to surveil and exploit Americans' personal information. It's a spy balloon in your phone." -- Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman
Legal scholar says: "The First Amendment implications of a TikTok ban deserve at least as careful consideration as the potential national security implications." -- Jennifer Huddleston, adjunct law professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Pollster says: "Young people are very aware of the problems and the abuse. They worry about younger brothers and sisters." -- Celinda Lake, Democratic adviser who doesn’t expect wide opposition to a ban
Front Page Talking Points Archive
Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.