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The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Is TikTok Really Being “Banned”? What the House Ruling on HR 7521 Means and What Comes Next

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On March 13th, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill, now colloquially known as the “TikTok Bill”, effectively banning the app in the United States due to its risk to national security. While most of the public discourse regarding this bill has been fearmongering, with many people posting on the app as if it has already been banned, there is still a long way to go before we reach that point. 

For those who may not be familiar, TikTok is one of many social media platforms used by adults and teens alike to watch short-form comedy, music, and other content. With its 1.7 billion worldwide users and its seemingly mind-reading algorithm, TikTok has garnered great success by connecting people with similar interests all over the world. It also has a unique ability to spread information incredibly quickly, often earlier than news outlets are able to put together a story. 

This “TikTok Bill”, which is formally known as the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” or HR 7521, has garnered much discourse due to its association with the beloved app when in reality it could affect much more if it becomes law. The proposed bill prohibits social media companies run by foreign adversaries and has been deemed as national security threats by the president. While TikTok and their parent company, the Chinese tech company ByteDance Ltd., are directly named in the bill, it would, in theory, be applied to any current or future social media platforms from these “foreign adversaries”. 

On Wednesday, March 13th the United States House of Representatives voted to pass this bill, with 352 members voting yea, 65 voting nay, 14 not voting, and one voting “present”. There wasn’t a particular party majority in favor of the bill, with 197 Republicans voting in favor compared to 155 Democrats. There was more of a noticeable difference in votes against, with only 15 Republican votes to the 50 Democratic opposing this bill. 

While the bill has passed in the House with a 2/3 supermajority vote, there are still many more steps before TikTok is no more. The bill has now been passed to the United States Senate, where it is assigned to a committee, then released, debated, and voted on. This process often takes some time and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not hinted towards rushing this bill through to the President. Despite there being no rush in Schumer’s mind, President Biden has indicated that if the bill reaches his desk, he will sign it into law. 

If President Biden signs HR 7521, what happens next? Well, fear not, TikTok won’t be immediately wiped from everyone’s phones. After being signed into law, ByteDance will have 6 months to divest their stake in the company to a buyer the United States Government deems “satisfactory”. If this sale is not made within those 6 months, then it will become unavailable to download on any app store, and users won’t be able to install any software updates, causing it to glitch and eventually become unusable. 

While it seems like an easy decision to sell the company, which would have no shortage of offers from U.S. tech giants, that is not exactly the case. TikTok is the largest social media platform ever, and it only continues to grow worldwide. Out of the 1.7 billion users of the app, only 150 million of them are from the United States. It would simply be a bad business decision to sell a company for an issue relating to only 10% of its user base, explaining one of the many reasons why ByteDance has no plans to divest ownership. 

According to a report from Oxford Economics, over 7 million small businesses use the app to drive growth, with 39% of those businesses stating that TikTok is critical to the success and existence of their business. This ban will be detrimental to small businesses nationwide, affecting not only business owners but employees and potentially customers as well. Another effect of the ban is on the spread of information. TikTok has a unique ability to push hyper-specific content to its users, as well as location and demographic-specific content. This algorithm has been able to inform users of news and information pertinent to their interests, that they might not see on other social media apps. Removing this source could cut millions of people off from both local and global news cycles, greatly reducing awareness of certain issues and movements.  

While the official reason for banning the app is its threat to national security, with many politicians, celebrities, and the president backing this bill, others don’t think it’s that simple. For one, many of the bill’s supporters have accounts on the app and, in the case of Congressman Jeff Jackson, have gained much of their following from it as well. Jackson is a Democratic Senator for North Carolina’s 14th Congressional District and broadcasted his campaign across TikTok in the months leading up to his election. His account has continued to grow, gaining 2.3 million followers from his continued posts about the U.S. political system and current events, proving why so many were stunned when he voted yay on the bill.

Jackson has since made an apology video, explaining his decision and stating that he doesn’t want it banned but thinks it would be better if it wasn’t “potentially controlled by an adversarial government”. Many have pointed out that if the app was a genuine security threat that needed to be banned, then he and other politicians wouldn’t be using and promoting themselves on it. This has led to speculation that the real reason for the bill is to try and get an American company, like Meta or Google, to buy the app and have them alter the algorithm to push/silence certain topics and control the public perception of this country and its issues. 

While a sale seems unlikely there is still a lot of time and a lot of decisions to be made before TikTok goes kaput. If you feel strongly then you can contact your Senators here, and urge them to vote no on this bill and its repercussions. If not, then make sure to enjoy the app while it’s here. 

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About the Contributor
Isabella Peterson, Finance Coordinator
Isabella Peterson is a first-year Film and Digital Media major at Foothill College. She plans to transfer to a four-year university but in the meantime, hopes to make her mark at Foothill. She loves anything film and television and aims to inform the Foothill community of the news surrounding it. She has years of experience being a finance coordinator and hopes to bring that experience to her position at The Script.

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    Joley Bove
    Mar 24, 2024 at 3:20 pm

    Wow! Super informative. I love this!

    Reply