TikTok faces ban following House bill: CPP professionals share how this will affect the nations relationship with China

By Daniel Duque, March 26, 2024

The U.S House of Representatives passed a bill March 13 to ban the popular social media platform TikTok in the United States if the China-based company, ByteDance, does not sell the platform’s stake.

The bill, which passed with a vote of 352-65, comes from lawmaker concerns of a national security threat arguing ByteDance could be sharing user data with the Chinese government. The Senate is yet to vote on this bill.

TikTok is widely used in the U.S. with more than 170 million registered users. Among these, there are many college students who use this platform daily for entertainment or content creation.

Cal Poly Pomona law assistant professor Shu Shang stated the bill could affect the relationship with China, especially with technology investors who may stop considering investing or expanding their businesses in the U.S market. Shang talked about how the U.S allows the international flow of data and the goal behind it.

“The United States and its international position has always been to promote the free flow of data in order to promote any type of legitimate commercial interest,” said Shang.

Shang continued by explaining that the Chinese government has a bigger role on accessing and collecting user data from private companies like ByteDance which could complicate the perception of data sharing and to what extent it could represent a threat to national security in the U.S.

Aside from its entertaining purpose, TikTok has become a platform in which political propaganda and misinformation have been spread among its users, even President Joe Biden’s campaign is advertising through the site.

“We have to understand there is a governance difference between the United States and many other countries,” said Shang. “How is that going to be translated to a national security threat? I think there are a lot of things that need to be resolved in the middle before we reach that end.”

Before a decision is made to determine whether  TikTok will be banned   , although there is evidence suggesting companies like ByteDance may be sharing user data with the Chinese government, Shang considers there should be information available to the public in order to analyze what kind of connection ByteDance has with the Chinese Government and to decide whether  users are threatened by its data collection.

“If we want to pinpoint the connection between ByteDance and the Chinese government to talk about how much of the consumer privacy is infringed, we must understand what kind of connection we are trying to unlatch,” said Shang. “If we don’t have that information, it is really hard to assess the impact of banning or not this app.”

For students at CPP, TikTok represents an important source of video entertainment involving multiple topics and content creators. For liberal studies student Diana Garcia, TikTok is a site to watch videos but also to buy consumer goods.

“I usually use TikTok to watch videos, sometimes I’ll buy beauty products, but to me it is just a form of entertainment,” said Garcia.  “I really like watching the videos that are put on TikTok and usually I see really good products.”

Garcia stressed she has no concern over her data privacy on TikTok as other entertainment platforms collect user data and it is normal for them to do it, but she talked about how banning the platform could negatively affect students at CPP, focusing on the ability to get revenue through content creation.

“I know that there are a lot of CPP content creators, I’ve actually run into a few, so I think it will affect a lot of students who might be making their livelihood off of TikTok,” said Garcia. “They might be using the money they get from TikTok for their tuition or their livelihood, so I feel like it will affect a lot of students economically.”

To Garcia, the reason behind the platform’s potential ban is not justified, as she considers it is just a product of the tension between the American and Chinese governments. She also stated TikTok helps the economic growth of the U.S., mentioning the fact that aside from content creation, the platform works as a way of advertising for businesses and content creators.

“It is economically helping us with all the small and larger businesses, but in general, it is just a new format of shopping and watching content all at the same time,” said Garcia. “That money is not just getting distributed solely to China, but it is also being distributed within America, so I feel like it is not justified that they are banning it just for those reasons.”

For sociology student Brianna Llamas, TikTok is a place where she can look up recommendations for new books, shows and fashion ideas, but at the same time she expressed it is also a place in which users can express themselves freely.

“What it really means to me is just a way for younger people to put out short form content and express themselves in a way that doesn’t have to be too in depth like YouTube or Instagram,” said Llamas.

Unlike Garcia, Llamas considers her data privacy could be potentially threatened, expressing concerns about the use TikTok could be giving to her user data.

“I have heard about so many articles where it says, ‘this was revealed’ or ‘this was leaked,’ and I know that there have been multiple times where TikTok as a whole was revealed to be hiding something or revealed to be putting certain content down,” said Llamas. “What else can they be doing that I’m not aware of?”

Llamas stressed banning TikTok could have a negative impact on students who create and watch content on the platform as CPP has its own TikTok community, and Llamas considers it is an interesting way of interaction between students.

“I’ve seen so many TikTok interviews that people have with students on campus, and I think that was a fun way in which people could interact,” said Llamas. “Getting rid of TikTok feels like it would be losing this little online community that people have.”

Despite the negative impact banning TikTok could have on CPP’s community, Llamas stated the House’s decision to pass the bill is justified as data privacy is a delicate and important concern with social media use.

“I know something similar happened before and those problems still haven’t been corrected or addressed,” said Llamas. “Clearly, TikTok does not care about those problems;  it is kind of like their fault.”

As a decision from the Senate is yet to be taken, the future of TikTok as a platform in the U.S. is uncertain, however, some senators have called for a public hearing addressing the House’s bill before voting.

“I feel like this is such a minor issue to the point where I feel that the public’s voice does have an impact just because it affects so many people’s livelihoods,” said Garcia. “I feel like the Senate will see that, or at least I hope they do.”

Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong

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