The student news site of Casa Grande High School

The Casa Revista

The student news site of Casa Grande High School

The Casa Revista

The student news site of Casa Grande High School

The Casa Revista

Speech vs. Security; a Battle Between TikTok and the US

On March 13th, 2024, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass a new bill that would divest TikTok from its parent company, Bytedance. But what caused this situation, and what does it mean for the platform’s users?

To start at the beginning, US lawmakers and Bytedance have had a contentious relationship for several years prior to this bill. With Bytedance being a Beijing-based company, there have been fears about the app’s data-tracking features being used against the US. Lawmakers have cited a security risk for Tiktok’s algorithm being used to promote pro-China propaganda or interfere in U.S. elections, with Mike Johnson, the current Speaker of the House, even saying:

“Today’s bipartisan vote demonstrates Congress’ opposition to Communist China’s attempts to spy on and manipulate Americans, and signals our resolve to deter our enemies.”

This bill isn’t the first to try restricting the app. In 2020, President Donald Trump attempted to force a sale of the app through an executive order, but courts blocked that effort. A few years later, in 2022, a different bill was passed, prohibiting the download or use of TikTok on any federal government or government corporation devices. In addition, as of February 2023, TikTok has been banned from state government devices in 32 states, across various state government agencies, employees, and contractors.

Now, in 2024, TikTok’s future in the US is even more uncertain. If this new bill is passed into law, this measure would force ByteDance to either sell TikTok or have the platform banned from app stores and web-hosting services in the United States entirely. ByteDance would only have 165 days to find another company willing to purchase TikTok and its $220 billion dollar valuation as of 2023. Functionally, this measure could potentially block the social media app from the US entirely if Bytedance is unable to find a buyer.

For the 170 million users of the app, this means TikTok may be shut down altogether, especially given the very difficult nature of finding a buyer for the platform. Most companies who have the assets to purchase TikTok are hesitant to do so, given the high cost of acquiring the company. However, there are still several obstacles before the bill is fully passed.

First, the Senate has to also pass the bill, meaning there must be a majority vote (at least 51 out of 100) to do so. In this case, it would be up to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring the bill up to a vote first, which could take over a year. After passing through Congress, President Biden then has to approve of the measure, which is already fairly likely given his statement: “If they pass it, I’ll sign it.”

One of the larger issues posed by this case though (beyond the legislative process that all bills undergo), is the questions it poses about free speech and government overreach. Advocates for TikTok have claimed that the government is stifling First Amendment rights, with both users of the platform and opponents of the bill touting the massive negative implications that the measure could have on future laws. On the other hands, many proponents for the bill argue that a need to preserve national security is more important than a social media app, with several senators releasing a joint statement saying, “It is critically important that the American people, especially TikTok users, understand the national security issues at stake.”

Currently, TikTok’s future is uncertain, especially Bytedance’s own statements about fighting the bill. Regardless of the outcome however, this bill proposes several important quandaries about the reach of national security relative to Constitutional freedoms.

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