Tick Tock for TikTok?

Last Thursday, TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, testified in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce as efforts to ban the app have picked up support among lawmakers. After a 5-hour testimony, Republican and Democrat lawmakers appeared unconvinced by Chew’s arguments as he tried to address their concerns regarding TikTok’s threat to national security and the American public. 

TikTok’s supporters have claimed that it is unfair to target the app, which they argue collects user data in similar ways to American social media platforms. For many in Washington, however, TikTok is particularly concerning due to its parent company’s (ByteDance) relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The primary concern is that ByteDance, like other Chinese companies, could be forced to, if it has not already, turn over any data requested by CCP officials. U.S. officials have warned that the CCP collects information on almost every aspect of American society. Furthermore, TikTok could be used by the CCP for misinformation and propaganda.

TikTok has attempted to avoid a nationwide ban through “Project Texas,” where U.S. user data will be transferred through U.S.-owned Oracle data centers. For many lawmakers, this move is insufficient. Most U.S. policymakers want a full transfer of TikTok’s ownership, but CCP officials have stated they would block any such deal. While it is unclear if TikTok will be banned in the U.S., the investigation of the social media platform shows yet another angle of the role the technology will play in the U.S.’s strategic competition with China. 

Questions and Background

  • How is TikTok different from other social media platforms? 
  • What would be the benefits and costs of a nationwide ban of TikTok? 
  • What is the role of technology in national security? 
  • Is TikTok an example of effective Chinese “soft power?”

WATCH: TikTok CEO Testifies Before Congress
CSPAN. March 24, 2023

Why TikTok’s security risks keep raising fears
Kelvin Chan and Haleluya Hadero. AP News. March 23, 2023. 

“Big Tech” Is a Big Deal in the Strategic Competition with China
Klon Kitchen. AEI. March 6, 2023. 

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