TikTok warns US ban would ‘trample free speech’

  • By Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News

Legend, Western officials have expressed concern about TikTok’s popularity among young people, saying it is subservient to Beijing and serves as a propaganda channel – claims denied by the company’s owner, Bytedance.

TikTok says a possible ban on its app in the United States would “trample on the freedom of expression” of 170 million Americans.

The US House of Representatives voted on Saturday to ban TikTok if the app’s owner does not sever ties with China.

The legislation was part of a package of U.S. foreign policy measures including aid to Ukraine and could become law as soon as next week.

In recent months, U.S. officials have expressed concern about TikTok’s popularity among young people.

They claim that TikTok owner Bytedance is subservient to Beijing – accusations it has repeatedly denied.

The House of Representatives first voted on the future of TikTok – with 360 votes to 58 for the updated divestment or ban bill.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week and US President Joe Biden previously said he would sign the bill.

Video caption, Watch: What do young Americans think about the TikTok ban?

A TikTok spokesperson denounced the bill, saying it would “trample on the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shut down a platform that contributes to 24 million Americans each year.” billion dollars (£19.4 billion) to the US economy.

TikTok said ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country.” And ByteDance insists it is not a Chinese company, pointing to the many global investment firms that own 60%.

The US House of Representatives voted in March to give ByteDance six months to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners, or block the app in the US – but that bill is still awaiting Senate approval.

Founded in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneurs, ByteDance first hit the jackpot with the short video app Douyin in China. A year later, she launched TikTok, an international version.

The social media app was banned in China but gained a billion users in five years.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Some believe a ban would spark public outcry, especially during an election.

It is now run by a limited liability company based in Los Angeles and Singapore but is primarily owned by ByteDance.

While its founders only own 20% of ByteDance, they own the controlling majority of the company. About 60% is held by institutional investors, including large U.S. investment firms such as General Atlantic, Susquehanna and Sequoia Capital.

The remaining 20% ​​is held by employees around the world. Three of the five members of the board of directors are American.

But Beijing’s grip on private companies in recent years has the United States concerned about the control the Chinese Communist Party has over ByteDance and the data it holds.

TikTok emphasized that American data would be protected and stored on Oracle servers in the United States.

Speaking before Saturday’s vote, Republican MP Raja Krishnamoorthi – a co-author of the bill – told the BBC’s World Business Report program that he wanted enforcement to continue.

“I think there’s still a lot of good content out there,” he said. “But the most important thing is that it is not under the control or operations of an adversary country.”

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