Americans are divided over banning TikTok – with many saying it violates their freedom of expression and others warning it corrupts young people and is being used as a Chinese spy tool.
Congress is currently debating the bill – introduced in December – that would move to President Joe Biden if passed, who will then have the final say if the app poses a threat to national security. If Biden determines it does, TikTok will be removed from app marketplaces and become unusable on smartphones where it is downloaded.
Gavin Dees, a TikToker with over one million followers but would not disclose how much money he makes, told DailyMail.com: ‘Fighting for TikTok is not fighting for an app. It’s fighting for the right to speak.
‘It’s fighting for even people I may not fully believe the same way. I believe in your right to believe that and to speak about that so. And TikTok allows for that in a way we’ve never seen.’
However, on the other side of the aisle are those who favor the ban – A CBS poll shows 61 percent of adults want to see the app disappear.
Congress is debating on the bill that could ban TikTok in the US where 150 million Americans use the Chinese-owned app
Joe Gagliese with Viral Nation, a company representing over 200 TikTok influencers, told DailyMail.com that before TikTok, people relied on major media companies for news, events and entertainment.
‘They owned all the eyeballs,’ he said. ‘Social media divested that completely.’
However, parents are focused on the harm TikTok is causing children.
Several lawsuits filed by parents against ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, claim the app is illegally collecting data of minors in violation of child privacy laws.
On March 25, 2022, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois approved a $1.1 million settlement with ByteDance to resolve claims that TikTok collected children’s data without consent and sold it to third parties without parental consent.
Other parents claim TikTok is opening up children to predators.
Kimberly Viola, a New York resident, told WKBW that her 10-year-old daughter was exposed to sexually explicit material from a predator.
‘What’s happening are these predators are, once they become on your friend’s list, they are able to expose themselves to you,’ explained Viola.
‘So we had a predator that was able to encourage my daughter and actually show my daughter self-inflicting harmful images, but also encourage her on a sexual platform.’
TikTok has over one billion monthly active users worldwide, and 150 million of them live in the US, waiting for the bill’s verdict.
The Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) would ban any social media company operations in or under the influence of China and Russia.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who introduced the bill in Senate, said Chinese law meant the app’s owner, ByteDance, was required to hand data to the Chinese Communist Party.
This month, the Biden Administration threatened to ban TikTok unless its Chinese owner sells its shares in the app.
And on March 23, TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, was grilled by Congress for a grueling five hours over data security and harmful content.
Gavin Dees , a TikToker with over one million followers, told DailyMail.com: ‘Fighting for TikTok is not fighting for an app. It’s fighting for the right to speak’
Many parents favor the TikTok ban, claiming the app is harmful to children. Nylah Anderson, 10, accidently killed herself while attempting a TikTok Challenge
‘I think, as far as Congress, the privacy issue is valid,’ Dees said.
‘But my problem with the whole thing, what made me feel some way about it, as we’re assuming that TikTok, or this company [ByteDance], is acting in a way that other platforms aren’t, like Twitter and Facebook.
‘Things [about Twitter and Facebook] have been proven, so now, the hypocrisy is that you don’t care about privacy.
‘[Congress cares] about something deeper about this platform, even though you may be talking like here about privacy and data, and all of this different stuff, like there’s other platforms that have been doing this for years decade.’
Dees also said that while the narrative of TikTok is it is a child’s app, at least 60 percent of his followers are over 34.
Why are governments banning TikTok?
The primary concerns for most countries center around security, privacy, and China.
Owned by Chinese company ByteDance, many governments around the world have concerns over whether the app can harvest user data and whether it is independent of Beijing.
Governments and regulators fear that user data could be made available to the Chinese government and be used for intelligence gathering.
In recent years, Chinese laws have ruled that companies must hand over data to the government if requested, which has heightened concern.
Many fear that data such as browsing history or personal user information like location information might fall into the hands of the Chinese government and be used to promote propaganda and disinformation.
‘There is a real systemic issue of young people on social and what that means to [parents], Gagliese told DailyMail.com.
‘There are dangers for young people on social, and that can’t be ignored, and I think parents have every right to be upset about social media.
‘I don’t think it’s a TikTok isolated issue. I think it’s social media in general.’
Chad Epps is a popular social media star best known for his TikTok account, which has earned over seven million followers.
And he also relies on TikTok to make a living.
‘It’s honestly surreal. It’s something I never imagined would happen. I’m not saying it will but it could happen, and it definitely scares me,’ Epps told DailyMail.com.
‘TikTok is the platform I have the most followers on. It’s the platform I’ve spent the most hours researching regarding the algorithm and how to build a community.
‘Other people on TikTok have spent many hours growing their audience and are afraid for it just to be taken away. But I’m always optimistic because it’s not the platform I fell in love with, it’s content creation.’
Parents, on the other hand, do not share the same views.
Seara Adair, a mother of two young daughters from Georgia, told CNN that she started using TikTok to educate the public about digital dangers.
These include what minors should do when contacted by strangers and exposed to harmful content.
‘Minors started tagging me in posts or sharing things they’d come across that made them scared,’ Adair, who now has 350,000 TikTok followers, told CNN Business. ‘They’d say, ‘Hey, I came across this. What do I do? Can you do something?’
She said a young follower shared how minors and adults can post explicit videos privately on their accounts’ ‘Only Me’ feed, where anyone with a shared password can access it.
TikTok and other social media like Facebook and Instagram are under fire for causing body dysmorphia among teens, particularly girls.
Leaked research obtained by The Wall Street Journal and published in 2021 reveals that since at least 2019, Facebook has been warned that Instagram harms young girls’ body image.
One message posted on an internal message board in March 2020 said the app revealed that 32 percent of girls said Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies if they already had insecurities.
On March 23, TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, was grilled by Congress for a grueling five hours over data security and harmful content
TikTok is flooded with diets and quick ways to lose weight.
Young girls told NBC that such videos had pushed them to fixate more on their diets and exercise regimens to a dangerous extent.
Parents filed a lawsuit in California on February 14 against ByteDance, which claims the company is aware minors are encountering harmful content on the app.
The document claims that as of July 2020, TikTok had 95 percent market penetration in Mobile App Users/ smartphone population of users under 17.
‘Rather than preventing children from falling down these harmful rabbit holes or encountering harmful content, ByteDance threw up its hands, insisting ‘[i]t is not TikTok’s place to decide for people what is or is not ‘appropriate’ for them or their teens,’ the lawsuit reads.
The document also describes TikTok’s challenges that have become a hit among minors.
TikTok has taken the social media world by storm since its global launch in 2017, allowing users to share short bursts of content that range from innocent dance routines to perilous challenges.
The family of a 10-year-old girl who choked herself to death as part of a TikTok challenge sued the video platform in 2022 for negligence and having a ‘defective design.’
Nylah Anderson of Philadelphia was found unconscious in her mom’s bedroom closet on December 7.
She hung herself from a purse strap after seeing videos related to the ‘blackout challenge’ on the app’s ‘For You’ page, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Pennsylvania.
TikTok said this was never a trend on its platform and it ‘removes any contact that promotes dangerous behavior that could cause harm.’
However, the California lawsuit claims ByteDance is aware of the challenges and the popularity among minors.
‘ByteDance product research has found that the number one most identified reason for teen participation in challenges is ‘[g]etting views/likes/comments,’ followed by ‘[i]mpressing others online,” the lawsuit reads.
‘As ByteDance internal documents observe, ‘[y]oung people are more susceptible to copying a dangerous challenge than adults because, developmentally, their ability to weigh up risk and to think beyond the immediate consequences of their actions is not yet fully formed.’
The fate of TikTok is currently in limbo.
Congress, currently in a two-week recess, would need to pass legislation in both the House and Senate, which would then need to hit the president’s desk, who could declare it a national security violation.
Lawmakers worldwide have restricted access to TikTok on government-owned devices.
The US Congress, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard have all ordered officials to remove the app from their phones. Two dozen states have also banned the app on government-issued devices.
But a ban could be imposed for all TikTok users across the US if the app is not sold to another company soon.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk