Students react to bill proposing U.S. limits on TikTok

Students may have to say goodbye to TikTok as Congress introduces a bill that could potentially ban the app. Congress introduced the Restrict Act which gives America the right to ban apps associated to foreign adversaries such as China, which is where the app TikTok originates. There has been controversy about if this violates free speech, if this could attack individuals using VPNs and if Congress is knowledgeable enough about technology for the increasingly technological world.

Students say there are some positives to TikTok. Junior Ivy Hemmer said,It helps me learn about current events and culture shifts around the world, and senior Hogan Fuessel said, “It has a lot of funny videos I laugh at. It is good for small businesses because it helps with marketing.”

Senior Emma VanPatten said, “The main thing there is that it provides entertainment and a way to connect with others. Personally, it’s really nice to be able to just send things to my friends that I find entertaining; additionally, there’s videos on there that you can send to people to compliment them which in my opinion is really nice, especially if you’re socially anxious like me and find it hard to directly compliment people.”

But there are also negatives. Junior Katlyn Juarez said, “For one, TikTok made it so people stole from schools, stores, etc., which ended up happening at our high school. Two, I’ve seen teenagers blocking the stairs because they were too busy with their dances to care, which resulted in me trying to hide away to get out of the view of the video. Three, I’ve gotten angry seeing TikToks (on YouTube) that were spreading blatantly false information, and the amount of health insecurities it’s caused is concerning, not to mention the dangerous challenges it’s made that sent kids to the hospital.” 

VanPatten also sees a darker side.  “TikTok has not had any negative effects directly on me; however, I have seen it used to harass some of my friends and acquaintances. A couple incidents I recall were a student recording an acquaintance falling from a stunt and posting it to make fun of her, and a bunch of people (including adults) commenting on a video that a friend of mine posted and bodyshaming her.”

Despite the negatives, Fuessel said, “While I think the government taking action to ban any app is overreach the national security concern it presents is a valid reason for the US considering a ban. The data collection TikTok introduces is more intrusive than other forms of social media. Notably the built in web browser that is active when clicking on links through the app has a keylogger, which can collect credentials from citizens.” 

But on the other side of that argument, sophomore Olivia Bartelt said, “I think that the TikTok ban would be fine if, in the same bill, they hadn’t slipped in a lot of sketchy stuff. Senate Bill 686, which introduces the ban, wouldn’t let people use technology developed by ‘foreign adversaries,’ a list of which is included (Iran, Cuba, China, North Korea, Russia). The bill lets the secretary of state work with the director of national intelligence to designate countries ‘foreign adversaries.’ The only qualification is ‘a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons’ I don’t trust them to not weaponize that, honestly. It’s a little ridiculous when Facebook, our American social media platform, has been selling information to ‘foreign adversaries’ as well being used to spread misinformation for them, and to help terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS) recruit for years. The bill also allows people who use banned tech to face civil penalties of up to $250,000, and criminal penalties of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to 20 years in prison. That’s insane. I wish that this was not what seems to be a thinly veiled attempt for the government to be able to control information.”

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