TikTok ban ‘must be stopped’ to protect free speech, digital rights group says

TikTok ban ‘must be stopped’ to protect free speech, digital rights group says

A total ban of Tiktok in the US would be unconstitutional and severely undermine free speech, according to a digital rights group.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched a campaign on Monday urging people to “tell Congress [to] stop the TikTok ban”, after a bill was passed that could see the video-sharing app banned nationwide in six months.

“Instead of giving the President the power to ban entire social media platforms based on their country of origin, our representatives should focus on what matters – protecting our data no matter who is collecting it,” a new page on the EFF’s website states.

“[TikTok is] used by hundreds of millions of people to express themselves online, and is an instrumental tool for community building and holding those in power accountable... This bill must be stopped.”

TikTok has amassed more than 170 million users in the US since launching six years ago, though its China-based parent company ByteDance has been accused of mishandling user data and holding too much influence over Americans.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that gave ByteDance six months to either sell the app or face an outright ban in the US.

The app has already been banned in other countries as a result of similar concerns, including India.

TikTok has consistently refuted allegations that it handles any user data in China, while also distancing itself from any ties with the Chinese government.

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their constitutional right to free expression,” the company said in a statement.

“This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew responded to the bill by claiming that more than 300,000 US jobs would be put at risk by the ban, while also taking “billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses”.

China has also criticised the bill, with Beijing vowing to take “necessary measures” to protect its interests, despite US-based apps like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube being banned in the country.

“The US should truly respect the principles of a market economy and fair competition [and] stop unjustly suppressing foreign companies,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said after the bill was passed last week.

He added that Washington should “provide an open, fair, just, and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies to invest and operate in the US.”