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Is TikTok Destined for Death in America?

AOC on CNN. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
AOC on CNN. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Over the course of the last two years, there have been many efforts to ban TikTok. Then-President Trump tried to ban it from the U.S. and later tried to force a sale of its U.S. operations back in 2020.

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That never happened, but more recently, one FCC Commissioner, Brendan Carr, has been pushing to ban the social media app, asking Apple and Alphabet to remove it from their app stores. 

Recent reports have indicated that there are disagreements within the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. over what to do with TikTok.

And earlier this month, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress to ban the app nationwide, although the bill, spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), will have to be reintroduced in the new Congress after it didn’t pass in the current one. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate voted earlier in December to ban government employees from having TikTok on federal government-issued devices, which was folded into the omnibus spending bill that funds the government through next fall.

The bill, which is headed to the president’s desk, followed similar bans passed by 19 states to date. 

Reuters reported Wednesday that TikTok has also been banned from all devices distributed by the House of Representatives to members and staff. The ban, the House said in a memo, is because they consider TikTok “a “high risk due to a number of security issues.” It is a rule, not a matter of law.

“With the passage of the Omnibus that banned TikTok on executive branch devices, the CAO worked with the Committee on House Administration to implement a similar policy for the House,” the memo said. 

“House staff are NOT allowed to download the TikTok app on any House mobile devices,” Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor wrote in the email, as reported by Gizmodo. “Tik Tok is NOT allowed on House mobile devices. If you have the TikTok app on your House mobile device, you will be contacted to remove it.”

The new rule also places a ban on any “successor app” that might be developed by Bytedance in the future. However, per Gizmodo, the ban only applies to House-issued devices, and not to personal devices. 

It’s not clear if any sitting members of Congress maintain active TikTok accounts. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), known for her frequent use of Instagram, said in 2021 that she has a “secret” TikTok account, but Fox News reported this week that the Congresswoman “will not say” if that account still exists. 

The White House not only has not called for a TikTok ban, but the Biden team has sought to cultivate TikTok influencers, especially during this year’s midterm elections. A group of TikTok stars was invited to the White House in March, part of a larger campaign to get TikTokers in the Democratic camp. 

One thing often forgotten in the TikTok debate is that the app is extremely popular among younger Americans. Suddenly, taking it away could have bad political consequences for the politicians deemed responsible. 

Vox looked at that issue this week. It noted, for instance, that Trump’s push to ban the app in 2020 did not go over especially well with young voters that year. 

“Much of the concern rests in TikTok’s unique audience: More than two-thirds of teens in the United States use the app, and young people under 30 make up a plurality of its user base, a larger share than Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Reddit. Coincidentally, these people stand to comprise part of the majority of the new American electorate in the coming decade,” the piece said.  “That makeup also poses a test for American lawmakers and their eventual campaigns: How do you explain to scores of young people who use this app every day why you want to ban their favorite app?”

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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.