A TikTok Ban Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Free Speech

by | Apr 29, 2024

A TikTok Ban Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Free Speech

by | Apr 29, 2024

tiktok logo on screen with ban symbol on it. sanctions on tik tok app

On April 23, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that included foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan along with a ban on TikTok. The next day, President Joe Biden signed the bill into effect, giving Byte Dance nine months to sell the app to an American company or be banned. While the foreign aid portion of the bill is drawing enormous attention, the TikTok ban cannot be ignored.

A TikTok ban has been up for discussion as far back as 2020 under President Donald Trump. Now, a ban is close to fruition. This decision is built on lies and would be disastrous.

For starters, TikTok is a major aspect of our economy and source of jobs. TikTok released data that revealed the app contributed $24 billion in GDP and 224,000 jobs in 2023. Many of the employees depend on the app for a living since the app pays anywhere from $19 per hour to $144 per hour.

However, most people do not care about this, and their greater concern is the potential of spying. Proponents of banning TikTok argue that the app poses a national security threat, with the Chinese government using the platform to spy on American users. They argue that Byte Dance is a Chinese company, and China requires companies to spy on their behalf, according to Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

However, it is important to note that while Byte Dance is based in Beijing, it is registered in the Cayman Islands. And while TikTok has global headquarters in cities like New York City and Singapore, Byte Dance does not have a single global headquarters.

Furthermore, Byte Dance is not only owned by the Chinese government. According to Senator Rand Paul, Byte Dance is 60% owned by international investors, 20% by its Chinese co-founders, and 20% by its employees, which include American employees. This was fact checked by PolitiFact as a true statement.

This is why claims of Chinese spying are built on mere hypotheticals, not factual statements. According to James Lewis, “It’s not that we know TikTok has done something, it’s that distrust of China and awareness of Chinese espionage has increased.” In other words, banning TikTok is the government criminalizing specific businesses without evidence of wrongdoing, let alone conviction

While TikTok does collect some data from users, it is not any worse than what Facebook is doing. According to Geoffre Fowler, “For the average user, TikTok appears no more risky than Facebook. That’s not entirely a compliment.”

While others argue that TikTok spreads misinformation, this does not justify banning the app. Other websites like Twitter, YouTube, and Meta all contain misinformation on their platforms, yet almost everyone would argue that they should not be banned.

Finally, a ban on TikTok would be an egregious violation of Americans’ free speech rights. Thanks to the First Amendment, we are allowed to read news articles and watch videos from foreign websites like The Guardian and The Times of India. They are not banned just because they are foreign owned. So why should TikTok be banned because it is “foreign owned”?

A ban on TikTok would violate the First Amendment in other ways, such as suppressing viewpoints different from the one theAmerican government approves of. This is the clearest example of a First Amendment violation you can find.

Banning TikTok also sets a dangerous precedent on the future of free speech in this country. The ban puts fear into the users of other social media apps on what they can and cannot say. It also brings up the question of what the government can ban because of foreign influence. Will the government ban Twitter because Democratic members of Congress accuse Elon Musk of being under Russian influence?

While a ban can be avoided if Byte Dance sells the company to a new American owner, the bill signed by Joe Biden sets a dangerous precedent for free speech now and the future.

Trenton Hale

Trenton Hale

Trenton Hale is a libertarian commentator who posts content on his Instagram @casual_libertarian and Substack, Casual Libertarian. He is the author of two books, "The Failed Idea: How Socialism Fails in Theory and Practice," and "Freedom for All: How a Libertarian Society Would Function."

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