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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2023. Photo courtesy of Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS.

Congress threatens TikTok

April 12, 2023

The popular social media site TikTok has come under massive scrutiny recently, as Congress has been holding hearings with its CEO and threatening to ban the app for security concerns over its possible connections to the Chinese government. 

Congressional hearings with TikTok CEO Shou Chew started on March 23; the primary complaints lobbied against him were concerns over TikTok collecting peoples’ data and its possible connection to the Chinese government, especially as China has become more aggressive against Taiwan. Many of the questions for Chew revolved around the possibility of the Chinese government being able to obtain sensitive data of U.S. citizens and even government officials. 

Efforts to ban the app have gained bipartisan support after Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Sen. John Thune introduced the RESTRICT Act, which would give the Department of Commerce more ability to regulate and review information and communications-related technology. This would include TikTok. Additionally, President Joe Biden has also signified support for banning the popular app if it will not be sold to a company without alleged connections to the Chinese government. 

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have mixed feelings over a potential ban.

“I feel a TikTok ban is completely unnecessary. I find it weird how that’s what the federal government focuses on when our country is in the midst of a gun violence epidemic, which is our nation’s biggest issue in my opinion,” senior Saumil Amradkar said. “It makes no sense worrying about national security  when our domestic security is abysmal and shootings occur every week.” 

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have argued that even though TikTok is not owned by the Chinese government, laws in China make it so that the Chinese government has a large influence over technology companies and the ability to gain access to sensitive data and information.

Chew defended the company by arguing that the actions of TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, are the same as normal U.S. tech companies, such as Meta, Apple and Google. 

“At the end of the day, TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. And by Chinese law, that company has to be willing to turn over data to the Communist Party,” Warner said in an interview with CBS News. “Or one of my bigger fears, we get 150 million Americans on TikTok an average of about 90 minutes a day, and how that channel could be used for propaganda purposes.”

Some Democrats worry however that banning TikTok could hurt them politically by getting rid of a platform many members of Generation Z use to campaign for Democrats and raise awareness of issues such as abortion and gun violence. Many liberal politicians, such as Sen. John Fetterman and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, relied on TikTok outreach and campaigning to get elected. 

“I would feel pretty annoyed but someone else would probably just make another similar app,” freshman Sarah Rosaler said. 

For the 2020 presidential election, TikTok for Biden, now Gen-Z for Change, was also a very large TikTok political account. According to a March Quinnipiac University poll, 49% of all Americans support banning the app with 42% opposing a ban; however, 63% of all Americans aged 18-34 oppose a ban with only 33% supporting one. 

“The restrict act is just an excuse to limit internet freedom and punish sources from other countries arbitrarily while silencing dissent,” senior Ben Laski said. “A potential ban would end up severely limiting the abilities of the people of that generation, as much of their communication and organizing is done online and banning TikTok will lead to a new site being needed to fill the void.” 

Members of Gen Z in Florida and across America will be paying careful attention to what actions Congress and the Whitehouse decide to pursue regarding the fate of TikTok. 


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