US TikTok ban is both hypocritical and unconstitutional


If you’ve never heard of TikTok before, then it’s likely you are either 1) a cave hermit, 2) an adult over the age of 45, or c) seriously out of the loop when it comes to common trends. The app, which was previously known as Musical.ly, is a spiritual successor to Vine and a Western-based spin on the Chinese sister app, Douyin.

TikTok is used to produce entertainment skits and news stories, host debates, promote businesses, and, as the original name suggested, show off your dance moves. As of the latest published statistics, the app has had over 3.5 billion installations, with upwards of 1 billion active users a month.

That, naturally, may soon be a much lower number with the Biden administration now going forward to enact a ban on the application, unless owner company ByteDance sells TikTok to an American company, having long claimed that the app could hold sensitive US data which the Chinese government could force ByteDance to hand over. ByteDance has long since stated this would not be the case though, with the bill having passed to the White House, the battle for TikTok is now on a deadline.

The attempts by the US government to ban TikTok over the last few years have been continuous across administrations. Since 2020, both the Biden and Trump administrations have attempted to shut down the application, with Trump even attempting to use emergency power to forcibly block TikTok in the United States.

Measures against the entertainment app have had some success – it is now, and has been for a while, illegal for a federal employee to have the app on any of their devices. Despite the attempts to shut them down, TikTok has attempted compromises with the US government, including a failed proposal called ‘Project Texas’ which would have seen all US data stored in the US.

Now it seems that both Republicans and Democrats have united behind enforcing the ban of the Chinese application, with the Republican-led House of Representatives voting through the bill banning TikTok by 360 to 58. This was then attached to a foreign aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan and swiftly passed through the senate with a vote of 79 – 18.

Despite the speediness of the bill’s passing, this is not the sure death of the app. TikTok’s US Head of Public Policy, Michael Beckerman, stated, “At the stage that the bill is signed we will move to the courts for a legal challenge.” Beckerman has claimed that the ban on the application is a violation of the First Amendment right, a claim that is backed by a previous overturning of a TikTok ban in Arizona in 2023 by a Federal Judge. The ruling was made on the grounds that blocking the application violated the First Amendment.

Beckerman’s opposition to the ban is expected to be joined by the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University, which has also spoken out in opposition to the ban.

Whilst TikTok and other organisations have pointed out the violation to the First Amendment, the US Government, primarily the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, has continued in his attempt to justify the ban by stating how a large number of Americans receive their news through TikTok and the application could be used as a propaganda tool, as well as repeating that China could use TikTok to spy on US civilians.

It is clearly worth pointing out, however, that the US government is entirely hypocritical accusing a foreign nation of spying on foreign citizens, when Americans cannot even trust their own government to observe their rights – their right to privacy and the First Amendment especially. The majority of those caught spying on sovereign citizens of the USA are in fact US government agencies. Evidence of the NSA as well as other spy organisations illegally recording and listening in on US phone calls, texts, and emails has emerged numerous times; in 2001, 2005, and 2013. And, when it comes to spying on foreign citizens, just last year the USA was exposed for having intelligence agents in the capitals of their allies – Egypt, South Korea, Ukraine, and UAE.

The US has become increasingly fearful of China and the number of US citizens who regard China as a threat has grown over the past few decades so that they are now in a majority. These numbers are higher than at any time since the Cold War. Another reason why this bill could have been rushed through is that the pro-Israel lobby is likely to be trying to limit the amount of pro-Palestine content in TikTok.

TikTok has nine months to launch an appeal on the bill, which is backed by Republicans and Democrats alike. Nine months from now may see them dealing with either Trump or Biden, post-US election. Whichever party leader ends up in office, it is likely the fight for TikTok – along with the First Amendment right – will carry on regardless.


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