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CD289: The Not A TikTok Ban Bill

Congressional Dish

Release Date: 03/15/2024

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A bill is quickly moving through Congress that supposedly would “ban TikTok.” While it is clearly aimed at TikTok, this bill is really about creating a new Presidential power to remove Americans’ access to apps, websites, games and other entire tech platforms. In this episode, using the text of the bill itself, we examine how exactly this new censorship power would work if the bill passes the Senate and becomes law.

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View the show notes on our website at https://congressionaldish.com/cd289-the-not-a-tiktok-ban-bill

Background Sources

Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD271: RESTRICTing TikTok

CD270: The Twitter Files

CD224: Social Media Censorship

The Not a TikTok Ban Bill

“TikTok bill, racing toward House passage, faces a minefield in the Senate.” Drew Harwell et al. March 13, 2024. The Washington Post.

“TikTok’s Security Threats Go Beyond the Scope of House Legislation.” David E. Sanger. March 13, 2024. The New York Times.

“Biden says he’ll sign proposed legislation to ban TikTok if Congress passes it.” Aamer Madhani. March 8, 2024. AP News.

Opposition to the bill

“ACLU Urges Senate to Reject TikTok Ban Bill Following House Passage.” Jenna Leventoff. March 13, 2024. ACLU.

“Coalition Letter to House of Representatives Opposing H.R. 7521.” Access Now et al. March 12, 2024. ACLU.

How we got here

“Congress is cracking down on TikTok because CFIUS hasn't.” Dan Primack. March 12, 2024. Axios.

“Judge blocks Montana’s TikTok ban from taking effect on January 1.” Samantha Delouya and Brian Fung. November 30, 2023. CNN.

“A Draft Of TikTok’s Plan To Avoid A Ban Gives The U.S. Government Unprecedented Oversight Power.” Emily Baker-White. August 21, 2023. Forbes.

“Issues over TikTok still unresolved, US Treasury Secretary Yellen says.” November 20, 2023. Reuters.

“US House bans TikTok from official devices.” Brian Fung. December 30, 2022. CNN.

“The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS),” [RL33388]. James K. Jackson. February 14, 2020. Congressional Research Service.

Grindr

“China's Kunlun Tech agrees to U.S. demand to sell Grindr gay dating app.” Echo Wang. May 13, 2019. Reuters.

“Another day, another US company forced to divest of Chinese investors.” Jeff Farrah. April 15, 2019. TechCrunch.

ByteDance

“What to know about TikTok owner ByteDance as U.S. considers possible ban.” Lily Kuo and Annabelle Timsit. March 13, 2024. The Washington Post.

“The Truth About TikTok: Separating Fact from Fiction.” April 16, 2023. TikTok.

Censorship and Spying

“Facebook made a major change after years of PR disasters, and news sites are paying the price.” Jonathan Vanian. January 22, 2024. CNBC.

“CIA Launches Telegram Channel.” May 16, 2023. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Public Affairs.

“Meet Pavel Durov, the tech billionaire who founded Telegram, fled from Moscow 15 years ago after defying the Kremlin, and has a penchant for posting half-naked selfies on Instagram.” Marielle Descalsota. December 27, 2022. Business Insider.

“The CIA Sets Up Shop on Tor, the Anonymous Internet.” Lily Hay Newman. May 7, 2019. Wired.

Israel and AIPAC

“How Israel’s Proposed Buffer Zone Reshapes the Gaza Strip.” Camille Bressange. March 16, 2024. The Wall Street Journal.

“Israel’s religious right has a clear plan for Gaza: ‘We are occupying, deporting and settling.’” Kate Linthicum. March 13, 2024. The Los Angeles Times.

“Israeli road splitting Gaza in two has reached the Mediterranean coast, satellite imagery shows.” Celine Alkhaldi et al. March 8, 2024. CNN.

“AIPAC was among the top 20 spenders in the 2022 elections. Here’s how it breaks down.” December 3, 2023. Velshi on MSNBC.

“Why Do Young Americans Support Hamas? Look at TikTok.” Rep. Mike Gallagher. November 1, 2023. The Free Press.

“Michael Gallagher ‘02.” Mater Dei High School.

TikTok

“China: Children given daily time limit on Douyin - its version of TikTok.” September 20, 2021. BBC.

The Bill

H.R.7521 - Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act

Audio Sources

House Session

House Floor
March 13, 2024

Clips

19:00 Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY): There was there were some people who were legitimately concerned that this was an overly broad bill and they got an exclusion written into the bill that I want to read. It says the term "covered company" does not include an entity that operates a website or application, whose primary purpose is to allow users to post product reviews, business reviews, or travel information and reviews. Why is this exception in the bill? Why did somebody feel like they needed this exception if the bill itself only covers social media applications that foreign adversaries are running now?

21:15 Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): While this bill establishes a national security framework that could apply to other applications, much of the public attention is focused on TikTok.

23:15 Rep. Michael Gallagher (R-WI): Mr. Speaker, TikTok is a threat to our national security because it is owned by ByteDance, which does the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party. We know this because ByteDance’s leadership says so and because Chinese law requires it. This bill, therefore, would force TikTok to break up with the Chinese Communist Party. It does not apply to American companies. It only applies to companies subject to the controlof foreign adversaries defined by Congress. It says nothing about election interference and cannot be turned against any American social media platform. It does not impact websites in general. The only impacted sites are those associated with foreign adversary apps, such as TikTok.com. It can never be used to penalize individuals. The text explicitly prohibits that. It cannot be used to censor speech. It takes no position at all on the content of speech, only foreign adversary control of what is becoming the dominant news platform for Americans under 30.

25:55 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): This divestment requirement is not new. It's not without precedent. When the app Grindr, a popular LGBTQ app, was acquired by a Chinese company, and the United States government determined that sensitive data of LGBTQ members of the military and US government officials got into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, they required divestment. This happened quickly. Why? Because Grindr was a very valuable social media company. The same is true with regard to TikTok, and there will be no disruption to users, just as there was with Grindr.

27:25 Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL): Last week, under the leadership of the Chairwoman and the Ranking Member, they brought up for consideration our bill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On the morning of that vote, TikTok, delivered a push notification and a pop up to thousands of users across the country. They used geolocation data targeting minor children to then force them to call congressional offices in order to continue using the app. And in doing so, these children called and they asked the question: what is Congress? And what is a Congressman? This influence campaign illustrates the need for this bill.

29:20 Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): The people sponsoring this bill today claim that the real issue is ownership. But who owns this company? It's not 100% owned by Bytedance. 60% of it's owned by investors, including American investors. 20% are owned by the founders and 20% are owned by over 7000 employees. The company's headquarters is not in China, it's in Singapore. And the American user data isn't housed in China. It's housed in Texas, controlled by a database owned by Oracle.

30:20 Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): So if we think we can address the privacy concerns, what's left to address? Frankly, content moderation. Remember, before Elon Musk bought the crime scene at Twitter, it was all a conspiracy theory that these algorithms were silencing and canceling people. You guys are crazy. Now when Elon Musk bought Twitter, he did keep it operating with 80% fewer employees. But what we found is a lot of the employees were trying to do content moderation, shape who sees what and how they see it, which algorithms are used, how does it promote certain people and, and filter others? So really, what you're saying here is if you're not fully engaged with America's three letter agencies in content moderation, we plan to 'TikTok' you. And this bill isn't just limited to TikTok. It's a coercive power that can be applied to other apps like Telegram, Tor. Things that provide privacy would be targeted by this bill.

34:20 Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): First of all, this is not a ban on TikTok. I'm a grandmother of teenagers, I understand the entertainment value, the educational value, communication value, the business value for some businesses on this. This is not an attempt to ban TikTok. Its an attempt to make TikTok better. Tic Tac Toe. A winner, a winner.

41:00 Brett Guthrie (R-KY): I was asked, does this just affect TikTok? And no, it's any foreign adversary, or any app that is owned, controlled or unduly influenced by any foreign adversary. We must protect our national security and help keep America's private data out of the hands of our foreign adversaries. I urge support of this bill, and I yield back.

51:55 Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN): After hearing from national security experts last week, it is clear the prolific use of media platforms controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign adversaries poses a danger to our country.

53:15 Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA): This bill would greatly expand the Executive's authority to ban tech companies with zero congressional oversight. I cannot sign a blank check to some future president who would easily and dangerously weaponize this legislation to profit in silence.

55:20 Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL): We aren't banning a company, as the high paid lobbyists for Bytedance - which is owned by China - would lead you to believe. We aren't infringing on constitutionally protected speech or growing the size of government. All we're saying is, Break up with the Chinese Communist Party.

1:02:30 Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY): Who's going to be prosecuted by this bill? Is it Bytedance or TikTok? Will they be taken to court? No. I mean, they're the target of this, but how do you elicit or effect a ban on them? By prosecuting Americans? The only way you can ban TikTok and the other companies from being here is to say what this bill says, which is the government will bring a civil action suit against you, if you so much as host them here. If you have an app store that allows them to be here, you're an American or an American company and you will be the target of this bill. Those are the only people who can be pursued under this bill and I know it's in order to go after TikTok, or so they say.


Music

Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito

Editing

Pro Podcast Solutions

Production Assistance

Clare Kuntz Balcer