TikTok Warns US Ban Would Infringe on Free Speech

By Asif Ali Awan

| Published Apr 22, 2024 | 11:13 a.m.

TikTok has reiterated its stance on free speech amid the passage of a bill by the House of Representatives, which could lead to the app's ban in the U.S. unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, divests its stake within a year.

The bill, which was approved on Saturday with a significant majority, is now headed to the Senate and may soon be voted on. President Joe Biden has indicated his willingness to sign off on the legislation concerning TikTok.

Bipartisan conce

rns among U.S. lawmakers and the Biden administration have been raised regarding TikTok's potential national security risks, citing the possibility of China mandating ByteDance to hand over data from its 170 million American users.

TikTok has expressed disappointment over the House's move to push the ban under the guise of foreign and humanitarian aid, claiming it infringes on the free speech rights of millions of Americans. The company has consistently maintained that it has not and would not share U.S. user data.

Senator Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, voiced concerns on Sunday about TikTok being used as a tool for Chinese propaganda, especially among the youth who use the platform for news.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University pointed out that the bill might not effectively prevent data risks, as foreign entities could still acquire American data through other means and spread disinformation via U.S.-based social media.

Calls for stronger data privacy laws have been made by some Democrats who are wary of the free speech implications of a TikTok ban. Representative Ro Khanna expressed doubts about the ban's legal viability under the Constitution's free speech protections.

The House had initially set a six-month deadline for ByteDance to sell TikTok's U.S. operations, but the latest legislation extends this to nine months, with a possible three-month extension.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell has shown support for the new bill, which has undergone revisions since the initial proposal.

The issue of TikTok's ownership was also discussed in a recent call between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, highlighting the ongoing concerns at the highest levels of government.