Lawmakers have bigger things to worry about than my TikToks

Casey Wiederhold, Associate Photography Editor

I check my phone constantly, as most teenagers do. I typically go on Instagram, Snapchat, check my text messages from my family or see if I received anything about a new sale going on at a store that I frequent.

I never expect that when I open Instagram or any other social media platform, I am going to see a post from @impact that says, “Congress is trying to ban TikTok in the U.S.” I glance through the carousel post and continue on with my day, confused as to why lawmakers are once again trying to ban the social media app. There are more important issues than trying to ban others from using a popular app.

The first motion to ban TikTok in the U.S. was introduced in July 2020. This proposal did not pass, though there was still a TikTok ban placed on all government employees.

The bill goes into how the government can ban any apps that it believes are a threat to the national security of the United States. The government will have complete control over which apps individuals can use and can censor everything that we see and do.

This reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” where the government banned books to attempt to create a safer, happier society. We are heading into a similar dystopian direction where the government has complete control over U.S. citizens.

The government recently signed the Willow Project for approval, despite all of the protests and petitions for the project to not continue. While the two don’t fully equate, if the same type of situation were to arise for the TikTok ban, I would not be surprised if the bill was passed, despite protesting from across the country.

It would be more beneficial for the government and the rest of the government to focus on other matters, such as trying to fix the gun violence epidemic in the United States. That is a much larger issue that has become increasingly visible since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There has also been the conflict of individual states banning LGBTQ events such as drag, and Florida with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

There have been ongoing hearings with the CEO of TikTok since March 24. According to sources such as CNN and The Los Angeles Times, the government currently has no evidence referring to any data being stolen from the Beijing company ByteDance. The purpose of the bill and hearings is to prevent American data from being stolen from the Beijing-based company.

If there is no evidence to prove that anything has been stolen, why are we trying to push for a ban? The government is attempting to protect us by censoring one of the country’s most popular social media applications.

The bill also addresses the qualifications of the ban. If the services are deemed a threat to national security they are put into an information hold. The government withholds information it believes was stolen from the app. If found that there was an information breach, those involved are fined and put into jail for up to 20 years.

This could mean that any service could qualify for censorship or data exploration. The government would have access to cloud services and social media services. Even a Ring video doorbell camera could be considered a threat to national security.

What will happen to freedom of speech and privacy? Will all of that go out the window if this bill is pushed through Congress?

In a recent NBC News article, Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, discusses the Bill of Rights and freedom of speech, stating that they are more important than a censorship ban on a social media app. He also compares the notion to China, relating the country’s censorship to the new bill.

I agree with Sen. Paul. Taking away someone’s right to post on a platform such as TikTok is a way to prohibit freedom of speech, something that the U.S. has previously supported. In the past, there have been instances where citizens have freely exercised their first amendment, TikTok is no different.

Banning TikTok takes away the opportunity to be creative. Content creators and app users on TikTok start movements and use the software to educate others. With the app teaching others about problems in the world, I consider a ban to be futile.

When I scroll through my TikTok feed I see edits of Pedro Pascal and Taylor Swift. I watch videos that are niche to my personal interests. The government should be making us feel safe, and quite frankly I wouldn’t feel very safe if I knew the government was going to deem my favorite apps as threats and look into my personal data.

With the power that the government holds, it makes no sense to push for an alternative solution to a crisis of data stealing that it has found no evidence of. With the displays of growth in current issues such as gun violence, there are laws and bills that can be put into place to fix them. The watchfulness of my personal data creates the thought that I am living inside a dystopian novel with nothing that I can do to help fix it.