By: Walker Cosby
On March 23rd, 2023, Congress gathered en masse to express collective concerns about TikTok, the popular social media platform and its threat to national security. At 10 a.m, the hearing began on what dozens of news platforms called a “grilling” of TikTok CEO Shou Chew.
Congress expressed that their biggest concerns with the app is ByteDance (the parent company) and the ties it has to China and its government, the data TikTok gathers and its threat to national security, and the negative effects TikTok has on children’s mental health.
Over the course of 5 hours, more than fifty-two politicians from both sides of the political spectrum called out Chew on the flaws of the company, questioned him on how he plans on fixing the platform, and frequently accused him of using TikTok to provide U.S information to the Chinese government. As of right now, there is no evidence to suggest that TikTok is acting as a Trojan horse for the CCP.
“Let me state this unequivocally– ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” the TikTok CEO stated in his beginning testimony. Many congresspeople did not buy it.
Another commonly presented concern was the effect TikTok has on the mental health of teens. According to a poll by the PEW research center, 67% of people aged 13-17 say they have the app, and 16% of this group stated they use the app “almost constantly.”
This information was concerning to lawmakers, considering they find the platform to be the biggest threat to teens’ safety. Representative Jamall Bowman from New York has been one of the few congressmen to defend the app and stand against its banning, urging lawmakers to “not be racist towards China and express our xenophobia when it comes to TikTok… Why the hysteria and the panic and the targeting of TikTok?”
Bowman expressed his concerns in the racist ideologies in banning the platform, and how he thinks it is a “Red Scare” by congress. “It’s also a place where 5 million small businesses are selling their products and services and making a living… As we know, Republicans in particular, have been sounding the alarm, creating the red scare around China.”
On April 14th, the state of Montana officially passed a bill banning TikTok, effective Jan. 1st, 2024. The ban will require that all app stores remove the app from its platform, and for every day they resist or fail to meet this requirement, the company will be fined $10,000. Other than this fine, there is no current method of enforcement for this ban, and Montana lawmakers have made no comment on what they plan on doing for Montana residents that already have the app downloaded.
Congress continues to express concerns about the app’s effect on the nation, while urging President Biden to take action on the matter. The Biden administration stated that they want the app “either sold or risk a nationwide ban,” but Beijing has already stated that they oppose a sale.