Blockchain Council

Banning TikTok and Free Speech

The debate over the potential TikTok ban in the United States presents a multifaceted issue involving national security, freedom of speech, and the global precedent it could set. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that, if also approved by the Senate, could lead to a ban on TikTok, a popular social media app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. This legislative move has sparked significant controversy and discussion among lawmakers, experts, and the app’s users.

Why ban TikTok? One of the primary concerns cited by proponents of the ban is national security. U.S. officials argue that TikTok could be used to disseminate Chinese propaganda or collect information on U.S. citizens for the Chinese government’s use. This concern is grounded in the broader context of rising tensions between the U.S. and China, particularly in the realms of technology and data privacy. The Trump administration initiated attempts to force a sale of TikTok or ban it outright, and these efforts have continued under President Biden’s administration. The House’s banning TikTok bill aims to compel ByteDance to divest TikTok, thus removing it from Chinese control, or face a ban. When is TikTok being banned? There is no timetable yet. The Senate still has to pickup, read through the bill and garner support for it from committees and other Senators. At this point in time, a forced sale of TikTok is more likely than an outright ban.

However, the proposal has met with criticism and opposition from various quarters. Some experts and lawmakers argue that banning TikTok could embolden authoritarian regimes worldwide to restrict access to U.S.-based internet platforms and services, undermining global internet freedom and the U.S.’s moral authority on issues of free speech and censorship. They fear that such a move could set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other countries to enact similar bans or restrictions on content and platforms they deem undesirable.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a pivotal component of the Bill of Rights and serves as a cornerstone for American freedoms. It guarantees several fundamental rights, with a key focus on freedom of speech. In essence, the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to express themselves without interference or regulation by the government. This includes the freedom to speak publicly, publish books and articles, protest peacefully, and express opinions through various forms of media including online social media platforms like TikTok.

The scope of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech is broad and has been interpreted by the courts to include not just spoken or written words, but also actions and expressions that convey a message, such as artistic creations (e.g. videos), wearing specific attire, and even silent protests. However, this freedom is not absolute. The Supreme Court of the United States has recognized certain limitations on free speech, including restrictions on obscenity, defamation, incitement to violence, and speech that poses a direct threat to national security or public safety.

Moreover, the debate over banning TikTok has highlighted the absence of a comprehensive data privacy law in the U.S. Critics of the bill argue that the concerns over TikTok’s data privacy practices are not unique to the app but are indicative of broader issues within the tech industry, where user data is routinely collected and monetized. They suggest that a more effective approach would involve enacting comprehensive privacy legislation that applies to all companies, rather than targeting a single entity like TikTok.

Interestingly, some of the lawmakers who voted in favor of banning TikTok have been active users of TikTok, utilizing the platform to connect with constituents and build their political brands. This has led to accusations of hypocrisy and has raised questions about the bill’s true intentions and potential consequences. These lawmakers defend their actions by distinguishing between the need to address national security concerns and recognizing the platform’s value for communication and engagement.

The discussion around banning TikTok is emblematic of the broader challenges facing policymakers in the digital age. It underscores the difficulty of balancing national security concerns with the principles of free expression and the open internet. As the bill moves to the Senate, the outcome will likely have significant implications not only for TikTok and its users but also for the global internet landscape and the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China over technology and data privacy.

Accessing TikTok After the Ban

The ban of TikTok will not impact VPN providers who’s place of business is not on U.S. soil. I recommend using a provider such as Proton VPN or Mullvad VPN. Either of these VPN services can connect to foreign servers that provide internet access, thus preventing a block because you are not using an internet service provider in the U.S. Can these VPN providers see me browsing? No, they cannot. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) technology creates an encrypted network within a network. This encrypted network prevents spying the same way our bank does when you login to check your account. The only information these services can log are names, IP address, credit card information, and email/phone number. Please read each provider’s data privacy policy before signing up.

Resources

TikTok’s Abusive Privacy Policies

Duper’s Delight: How to Tell If Someone is Lying

Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (TikTok ban bill)

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