TikTok ban: all the news on attempts to ban the video platform

Discussions about banning TikTok, the short-form video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, have seen politicians in the US and internationally accuse it of being a tool for propaganda and a security risk. Attempts to force a sale of TikTok began under the Trump administration and have continued in the US under the administration of President Biden but have so far been unsuccessful.

In the meantime, a slew of TikTok bans across the US barred the app from devices tied to universities and government hardware at the state, local, and federal levels.

While some experts say there’s no evidence the app has done any more damage or risked user privacy beyond what we’ve seen from companies like Facebook or Google, politicians have continued to raise the prospect of attempting to ban TikTok entirely if they can’t force a separation from ByteDance.

Highlights

  • Republicans ignore Trump criticism, and plan to vote next week on a bill that could ban TikTok.

    The Republican-controlled House is planning a speedy vote on a new bill that could ban TikTok unless it separates from its Chinese parent company. House leaders plan to bring the bill to a vote on Wednesday in an accelerated process that requires a two-thirds vote to pass, according to Semafor.

    That says a lot about how much House Republicans care about this bill, considering that former President Donald Trump posted this on Truth Social after the committee vote to advance it:

    If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!

  • Turns out Congress might still want to ban TikTok.

    After months of little serious discussion about TikTok on Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce committee just unanimously passed a bill that could effectively ban the app unless it separates from its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

    Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) pointed to TikTok’s plea to users to contact their representatives about voting against the bill as “a small taste” of how the Chinese Communist Party can weaponize apps. After the vote, TikTok wrote on X that the “government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.”

  • The TikTokers are revolting.

    Apparently TikTok’s push notification warning is working, because congressional staffers say they’re flooded with calls protesting a new play to make Chinese owner ByteDance sell the app:

    “It’s so so bad. Our phones have not stopped ringing. They’re teenagers and old people saying they spend their whole day on the app and we can’t take it away,” one House GOP staffer told POLITICO, granted anonymity to speak candidly.

  • A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    As support grows for a bill in Congress that would effectively ban TikTok in the US, the video platform is trying to rally support among a key group: its own users.

    TikTok sent users in the US a push notification on Wednesday, warning that “Congress is planning a total ban of TikTok” that would “[strip] 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.” The page says that a ban would “damage millions of businesses, destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country, and deny artists an audience.” The alert includes a way for users to find their representative and call their office.

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  • A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    After a long reprieve from serious congressional scrutiny, lawmakers are taking another crack at getting TikTok to sever ties from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

    The leaders of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, chair Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), announced the introduction of the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act on Tuesday. The bill, which has 19 lawmakers signed on so far, would make it illegal to distribute apps controlled by ByteDance, including TikTok, unless they sever ties from the Chinese tech giant.

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  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at a press conference following the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with five tech CEOs.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at a press conference following the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with five tech CEOs.

    a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Lauren Feiner

    During an unusually emotional hearing on Wednesday, senators spent hours trying to get a group of five tech CEOs to confront the harms their platforms have caused and submit to more checks on their power.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee invited the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Snap, X, and Discord to face the families of children who’d died following cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, or other harmful events on their platforms. They asked why Section 230, the law that shields online platforms from being held liable for their users’ posts, should stop these families from facing them in court.

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  • The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation

    The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation

    Today’s hearing on child safety was — mostly — an unusually focused affair. The Senate Judiciary Committee called up the CEOs of X, Meta, Snap, TikTok, and Discord and grilled them for four hours on the potential dangers their services posed for children. Many of the lawmakers emphasized emotional impact, playing to an audience filled with families who’d had kids targeted by predators or otherwise harmed online.

    But midway through the hearing, it was dragged off course by a predictable tangent: the fact that TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. And a meeting ostensibly about keeping kids safe dipped into a now-familiar attempt to make TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew answer questions utterly unrelated to the rest of the day.

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  • A portrait of Rep. Ro Khanna.

    A portrait of Rep. Ro Khanna.

    a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo illustration: The Verge | Photo Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

    Today, I’m talking with Representative Ro Khanna. He’s a Democrat from California, and he’s been in Congress for about eight years now, representing California’s 17th District. It’s arguably the highest-tech district in the entire country.

    You’ll hear him say a couple times that there’s $10 trillion of tech market value in his district, and that’s not an exaggeration: Apple, Intel, and Nvidia are all headquartered there. He’s also got a big chunk of Google’s offices. So, you know, no big deal.

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  • The TikTok logo on a black background with pink and blue repeating logos around the edges.

    The TikTok logo on a black background with pink and blue repeating logos around the edges.

    TikTok is getting sued by the state of Iowa over claims that it’s lying to parents about the presence of sexual content, drugs, alcohol, profanity, and other inappropriate material in the app. In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird claimed TikTok is making this kind of content “easily accessible” to young users while maintaining an inaccurate “12+” age rating on the Apple App Store.

    As noted in the lawsuit, a 12-plus rating on the App Store means an app has “infrequent/mild” sexual content, profanity, crude humor, suggestive themes, and references to alcohol, tobacco, or drug use. However, the state of Iowa claims the content on TikTok’s app doesn’t fit this description, adding that it would receive a 17-plus label if “correctly” rated by TikTok. The state alleges TikTok’s “T” for “Teen” ratings in the Google Play Store and Microsoft Store are also inaccurate.

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  • Judge upholds Texas TikTok ban on state employee devices.

    The ban was challenged by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in July, arguing that it’s “preventing or seriously impeding faculty” from undertaking research related to the app. College students and staff across the state have nevertheless found ways to sneak around the ban.

    US District Judge Robert Pitman rejected the suit on Monday, calling the ban a “reasonable restriction” in light of Texas’ concerns about data privacy.

  • A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year: when TikTok publishes its annual roundup of the biggest hits, and I get to see what everyone else has been doing on the app all year.

    Despite the hold TikTok has on our cultural and political psyche, it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on across the platform. Seeing something served up on your For You page doesn’t mean it’s a thing all the kids are doing — it just means that the algorithm decided you might watch it based on what you spend your time doing on the app. Out of the bottomless supply of videos posted each day, you’re being fed everything from celebrity clips with millions of views to videos from random accounts with zero likes and zero comments. None of our For You pages look the same by design.

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  • TikTok is committing €12 billion to data security in Europe.

    The money will go towards Project Clover, TikTok’s initiative to house European user data on local servers to address concerns from regulators.

    TikTok’s data center in Ireland is already up and running, but it’s already working on another in Norway, where it expects data migration to begin in late 2024. Once complete, TikTok says its Norway facility will be the “largest data centre in Europe.”

  • A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    TikTok is taking action against content promoting the manifesto Osama bin Laden wrote discussing his supposed motivations for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), TikTok says it’s “proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.”

    Dozens of videos about the manifesto, titled “Letter to America,” have surfaced on TikTok over the past several days, with CNN reporting the topic amassed “at least” 14 million views by Thursday. Originally published in 2002, the manifesto criticizes the US government’s presence in the Middle East and support of Israel. However, some creators are now trying to apply that criticism to the US government’s response to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

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  • Nearly one-third of young adults are regularly getting news from TikTok.

    In 2020, the share of Americans age 18-29 who could say the same was just 9 percent, according to a new poll from Pew Research. Additionally, 43 percent of TikTok users report consuming news on the platform, up from 22 percent in 2020.

  • A smartphone sits on top of a surface with red tape reading “DANGER.” Where one strip intersects the phone, it continues inside the phone’s screen.

    A smartphone sits on top of a surface with red tape reading “DANGER.” Where one strip intersects the phone, it continues inside the phone’s screen.

    Meta, ByteDance, Alphabet, and Snap must proceed with a lawsuit alleging their social platforms have adverse mental health effects on children, a federal court ruled on Tuesday. US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected the social media giants’ motion to dismiss the dozens of lawsuits accusing the companies of running platforms “addictive” to kids.

    School districts across the US have filed suit against Meta, ByteDance, Alphabet, and Snap, alleging the companies cause physical and emotional harm to children. Meanwhile, 42 states sued Meta last month over claims Facebook and Instagram “profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans.” This order addresses the individual suits and “over 140 actions” taken against the companies.

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  • An illustration of the EU flag.

    An illustration of the EU flag.

    The European Commission is formally requesting information from Meta and TikTok on how they’re handling illegal content and disinformation related to the war in Israel. The inquiry comes as part of the European Union’s newly enacted Digital Services Act (DSA), which holds large online platforms legally accountable for the content posted to them.

    Both platforms have until October 25th to respond to the Commission’s request. From there, the Commission will evaluate their responses and “assess next steps.”

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  • A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A federal district judge voiced skepticism over Montana’s first-in-the-nation ban of TikTok during a hearing in Missoula on Thursday. 

    TikTok and several platform creators sued Montana earlier this year, calling the state’s ban unconstitutional and infringing on the free speech rights of both the company and users. Throughout Thursday’s hearing, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that Montana’s ban was “overbroad,” while the state’s defense claimed it was necessary to protect the online privacy of Montana residents. 

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  • Accumulated snow is seen in a street amid heavy snow fall near University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma.

    Accumulated snow is seen in a street amid heavy snow fall near University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma.

    a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka / NurPhoto via Getty Images

    When he first read the email announcing that public universities in Texas had been asked to ban the use of TikTok on their campuses, UT Dallas student Eric Aaberg feared the worst. As a full-time content creator with over 10,000 followers on the platform, the app was central to his life. Would he be forced to delete it? Would he be punished if he were caught using it?

    “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you serious?’” Aaberg recalls. “That’s so BS. There’s no way.”

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  • A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    A TikTok logo surrounded by jazzy lines and colorful accents

    TikTok users in Europe will be able to switch off the personalized algorithm behind its For You and Live feeds as the company makes changes to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA). According to TikTok, disabling this function will show users “popular videos from both the places where they live and around the world” instead of content based on their personal interests.

    These changes relate to DSA rules that require very large online platforms to allow their users to opt out of receiving personalized content — which typically relies on tracking and profiling user activity — when viewing content recommendations. To comply, TikTok’s search feature will also show content that’s popular in the user’s region, and videos under the “Following” and “Friends” feeds will be displayed in chronological order when a non-personalized view is selected.

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  • The TikTok logo on a black background with repeating music note motifs

    The TikTok logo on a black background with repeating music note motifs

    On Monday, TikTok sued Montana over a new law that would ban the app statewide next year.

    The lawsuit comes less than a week after Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed SB 419, the first state bill to ban the popular video app. The law, set to go into effect January 2024, would prohibit TikTok from operating “within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana” and would force mobile app stores to make the app unavailable for download within the state.

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  • TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before Congress in March.

    TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before Congress in March.

    a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by Becca Farsace /The Verge

    A group of TikTok creators have sued to block a recently signed law that bans the app’s operation in Montana. The suit, filed last night and announced today, alleges that Montana’s SB 419 is an unconstitutional and overly broad infringement of their right to speech.

    “Montana has no authority to enact laws advancing what it believes should be the United States’ foreign policy or its national security interests, nor may Montana ban an entire forum for communication based on its perceptions that some speech shared through that forum, though protected by the First Amendment, is dangerous,” says the suit, filed by law firm Davis Wright Tremaine. “Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes.”

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  • Can you even watch this video in Montana?

    Well, maybe not in 2024 if a new law banning TikTok within the state takes effect. Makena Kelly can explain more.

SOURCE

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