Opinion: TikTok Congressional Hearing–Is a ban really necessary?


Maddy Torres

Student opens the TikTok application.

TikTok, the social media app beloved by most Americans, including high school students, has been accused of sharing users’ personal data as well as causing harm to young app users. These concerns sparked multiple laws and actions taken by the U.S. Government to limit the use of TikTok, or ban it completely. On March 23, a congressional hearing was held in which members of congress could directly question Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok. 

One of the main allegations brought up against the company is user security concerns. TikTok is a company based in Beijing and owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The U.S. Government is concerned about user information being accessed by the Chinese Government in order to spy on Americans. 

The congressional hearing has been a hot debate on social media platforms, but not for the reasons one may think. Most of the videos about the hearing are critical and mocking, making fun of some of the questions being asked during the proceedings. 

“The people that were called to testify gave accurate and, as far as I know, accurate and honest testimony and it seemed that they were allowed the space to do so, but from some of the responses I heard from committee members, it seems like it did very little to change their minds,” Austin Struckmeyer, International History teacher, said. 

The hearing lasted five hours, and Chew denied the claim that ByteDance was spying on American users. Even though concerns over personal data are valid and important for lawmakers to consider, everyone is guaranteed a fair and impartial hearing under our sixth amendment. All representatives should have an open mind about issues such as those that will affect a large number of U.S. citizens. Research should also be done before deciding on big laws or actions, such as the banning of TikTok. 

One plan of action proposed by TikTok to guarantee security within the app, is named Project Texas. Project Texas is a plan that would establish a U.S. committee, called the TikTok U.S. Data Security Committee, to oversee the security of U.S. users. The leadership of the committee would have to be approved by the U.S. government. Part of the project is also a collaboration between Oracle, a computer software company, and TikTok in order to further review code and the storing of TikTok user information. 

This solution could have the potential to stop the banning of TikTok. Multiple different organizations checking the use of online data would make it harder for leaks and other inappropriate uses of data to go undetected. By having servers in the U.S., one of the big concerns centering around the app will be null and void. Despite this possibility, lawmakers seem apprehensive to fully support this plan of action.

Another concern that was brought up at the hearing was the effect of TikTok on young children who utilize the app. The claim that TikTok encourages eating disorders and illegal activities is a claim that can be said about any social media app used by young people. 

“Any form where children can access information without parental or adult supervision, there are risks,” Struckmeyer said. ”You might run into situations where a child runs into inappropriate content, or someone posing to be someone else and attempting to cause them harm.”

Due to algorithms that cannot discern harmful content from regular content, some things posted may be dangerous for kids. Some things like the promotion of eating disorders or other unrealistic ideals is something prevalent on any platform with algorithms determining what is shown.

“It depends on how you use Tiktok, but if you see a lot of pretty people on TikTok, then you might get self absorbed and your self esteem might go down,” Natalie Ahern, sophomore, said. 

All social media platforms should develop new ways to combat this and concerns such as these should be addressed by parents by moderating their child’s use of social media. And while popular apps such as TikTok could do more to prevent the spread of harmful videos, it is not exclusively the apps’ fault that young children have access to the internet at young ages. 

Some students and other people note negative consequences of TikTok being outright banned in the U.S., including the loss of jobs and the loss of an effective advertising tool for small businesses. The banning of TikTok has the potential to harm a lot of small businesses all throughout America and harm people who get money through the app, either through content creation or advertising. 

“I think that it could mess up a lot of jobs because there’s a lot of influencers that make a lot of money from TikTok,” Ahern said.

It’s not only influencers who would be affected. According to Variety, almost 7,000 employees in the United States work for TikTok and that approximately five million small companies use the app. Through a banning of the app, these layers may be laid off. 

More recently, universities across the state of Florida have banned the use of five apps including QQ, WeChat, VKontke, Kaspersky and TikTok from being used on school Wi-Fi or school issued devices. The fact that college students are now being banned from using an app could be seen as harmful to their first amendment rights.

Even though the concerns of the app stem from a desire to protect American interests, the main points in the argument are very hypocritical and unbased in actual facts.