". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


House Bill Cracking Down on TikTok Moves Forward

March 12, 2024

Earlier this week, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told reporters that the House will vote on a bill Wednesday that would force the controversial but widely popular social media platform TikTok to divest itself from Chinese ownership within six months or be banned in the U.S. A wide bipartisan swath of lawmakers have expressed their support for the bill, which experts say would be a step in the right direction toward thwarting the threat that the communist regime poses to America.

Centered around viewing, creating, and sharing short, catchy videos, TikTok is one of the world’s most popular apps with over one billion monthly active users, of which adolescents make up the largest proportion. But with TikTok’s popularity has come increased scrutiny as critics say the app’s algorithms are designed to encourage addiction and ensnare young people in harmful content, including videos promoting suicide and eating disorders. Beyond these concerns is evidence that the Chinese government is using the app for personal data collection in order to compromise devices and commit privacy and security violations. Cybersecurity concerns over TikTok led the Biden administration to ban the app from all government-issued mobile devices in March of last year.

The House’s TikTok bill appears to be poised for passage, with USA Today noting that it has “sizable bipartisan support, and President Joe Biden said on Friday that he would sign the legislation if it makes it to his desk.” Still, former President Donald Trump, who previously issued a failed 2020 executive order attempting to force Beijing-based ByteDance to divest TikTok, appears to have changed his mind by signaling his opposition to the bill, arguing that it would “double [Facebook’s] business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!”

There also appears to be some conservative opposition to the bill in the Senate. “In a free country you don’t take people’s companies,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued. “I think it also violates the First Amendment rights of 180 million Americans who use it so I’m absolutely opposed to it.” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) further commented that targeting TikTok would be “playing a game of Whack-a-mole. Because what’s TikTok today will come up next week as TockTik or TicTack or whatever.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board pushed back on these arguments Monday in its endorsement of the bill, writing, “[T]he House bill doesn’t restrict First Amendment rights. It regulates national security. It also has ample precedent since U.S. law restricts foreign ownership of broadcast stations. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States forced the Chinese owners of Grindr, the gay dating app, to give up control of the company.”

Expert observers of China are also voicing their support for the bill by highlighting the dangers of TikTok.

“TikTok poses two primary threats,” Gordon Chang told “Washington Watch” guest host Jody Hice on Monday. “One of them is it steals data from 170 million devices in the United States. And the second is that Beijing uses it to propagate its narratives. … It’s not just Russian disinformation about the Ukraine war or what Beijing thinks on a particular topic, but things like promotion of illegal drug use, self-harm, all of these social issues that China wants to actually destroy a generation of American youth [with].”

Chang continued, “[H]ow did we get here? Well, it’s because at least since Eisenhower, we have not had an American president who was declared the Communist Party of China to be America’s enemy. As a matter of fact, President Biden won’t even call them an adversary. He just says they’re a ‘competitor.’ Well, they’re not competing with us within the existing international system. They’re trying to take that system down and replace it with worldwide Chinese rule.”

Chang, who serves as a distinguished fellow at the Gatestone Institute, went on to assert that a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are underestimating the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses.

“[T]here are a lot of actually powerful forces in both parties that are rooting for TikTok, and this is a problem. The American people need to understand that we have a disease in our political system, and it’s not just Marxist Democrats. It’s also conservative Republicans who, for very different reasons, support Communist Party narratives. We’ve got to make sure that people start to understand that national security issues must predominate, because we have an enemy that is trying to destroy our society, and we cannot allow ideologies or even this notion of free trade to prevent us from defending ourselves.”

Chang further warned that America could pay a stiff price if it does not pay attention to the language coming out of Beijing.

“[Ji Xinping] actually has been talking about this notion of ‘tianxia,’ or ‘all under heaven,’ where Chinese emperors believe that they not only had the mandate of heaven to rule what they call tianxia, but also heaven compelled them to do so,” he noted. “We ignore what Xi Jinping and his subordinates have been saying, but they’ve made it quite clear they do not think that the United States should be considered a sovereign state. … [W]e Americans have been put on notice. We didn’t listen to Osama bin Laden in the 1990s … after he killed six Americans in 1993 at the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Well, we’re not listening to the Chinese right now.”

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.