Social media platform TikTok is now facing efforts from Congress to shut down its operations amid ongoing talks with the Biden administration about data security and surveillance.
Following TikTok’s secretive launch of its retail sales integration in November, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. announced bipartisan legislation on Tuesday to ban the popular China-sponsored app from operating in the United States.
The new bill follows Rubio’s pushback at the White House in May for not addressing concerns over the app’s ties to China-based parent company ByteDance and the Chinese government’s approach to surveillance through technology. Rubio issued a statement urging President Biden to clarify that the TikTok shop would not be allowed to operate in the United States.
The law increases pressure on ByteDance, as the US fears the app could be used to spy on Americans and censor content. If approved, the effect could have far-reaching effects on influencers, social media users, and companies using it for marketing purposes.
Rubio’s bill would block all transactions with any social media company from or under the influence of China and Russia, according to a news release from Rubio’s office. The announcement said Republican Mike Gallagher and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi sponsored a companion bill in the US House of Representatives.
Cloud Insight can clean up the data flow
Congressional hearings on TikTok may reveal how much security and compliance with data privacy rules is at stake with Oracle, which provides cloud storage services for TikTok’s domestic operations.
Platform executives revealed in June that its US traffic goes through Oracle’s servers, and TikTok executives also said it maintains its own data backups.
Oracle did not respond to inquiries about compliance with its data collection practices with TikTok. But the company could have a significant impact if the congressional hearing pursues clarity about TikTok’s handling of US data distribution and storage, agreed Luke Lintz, CEO of HighKey Enterprises, a Canada-based digital marketing and social media management company. .
“TikTok poses a real threat when it is collecting and storing more data points about users than any other social media platform. A full audit of Oracle’s data storage is likely to take place to look at the exact agreements and policies between ByteDance and Oracle,” Lintz told the E-Commerce Times.
The proposed ban law, titled “Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Repressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (Anti-Social CCP Act),” would block and restrict all transactions from any social Will protect Americans by doing so. Media companies in or under the influence of China, Russia and several other foreign countries of concern.
“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” Rubio said in the announcement. It’s not about creative videos — it’s about an app that’s collecting data from hundreds of millions of American children and adults every day. We know it is used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know that this is the answer of the People’s Republic of China. No more time to waste on meaningless conversations with the CCP-puppet company. The time has come to ban Beijing controlled TikTok forever.”
Representative Gallagher called TikTok a “digital fentanyl” that is addicting Americans, collecting their data, and censoring their news.
According to Gallagher, TikTok is also an increasingly powerful media company that ultimately reports to the CCP. He said that China is the biggest enemy of America.
“Allowing the app to continue to operate in the US would be like allowing the USSR to buy the New York Times, the Washington Post and the major broadcast networks during the Cold War. No country with the slightest interest in its own security, Which is why it’s time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it’s too late.”
The Chinese Communist Party and other adversaries abroad seek any advantage against the United States through espionage and mass surveillance. Noted Representative Krishnamurthy said it is imperative not to allow hostile forces to potentially control social media networks, which can easily be weaponized against us.
“The bipartisan ANTI-SOCIAL CCP ACT is a strong step forward in protecting our country from nefarious digital surveillance and influencing the operation of totalitarian regimes. Recent revelations about the depth of TikTok’s ties to the CCP highlight the need to protect Americans from these risks before it is too late,” he said in the announcement.
Support for TikTok Ban Widens
Recently, Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina and Texas have banned the use of TikTok on government equipment, citing potential national security threats. On Monday, Alabama and Utah also barred the use of the TikTok app on state government equipment and computer networks due to national security concerns.
Discussing the expansion and security concerns of TikTok Shops, Laura Perez, Global Director of B2B Communications for TikTok, told E-Commerce Times that the company was in active talks with the US government to address some of their fears. He added that TikTok was transparent about the issues it had with its brand and merchant partners.
As of the writing of this article, neither Perez nor other TikTok officials have responded to our request for comment on the potential banning law. However, an unnamed TikTok spokesperson pointed out elsewhere that the national security review and politically motivated ban of TikTok was troubling and would not advance US efforts to enhance national security.
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, suggested that despite growing support for banning TikTok’s operations in the US, negative reactions from the platform’s massive user base could become an issue.
Tik Tok owner ByteDance’s reliance on the Chinese government and how the company handles user information has been a concern for years, he agreed. But after the GOP’s below-expected performance in the midterm elections, there is finally growing apprehension among politicians.
“If TikTok users old enough to vote are angry enough, they could voice their displeasure in the 2024 elections,” King told the E-Commerce Times.
possible pushback possible
Banning Tiktok will no doubt affect the growing use of social media marketing. This will be hugely impactful and disruptive, especially for companies targeting the younger consumers who make up the vast majority of Tik Tok users and influencers, King observed.
“It is difficult to predict which alternative platform millions of TikTok users will choose instead,” he added.
Lintz said banning TikTok would have little effect on the trajectory of other outlets. The increasing use of social media year after year will remain unchanged.
“Currently, the average social media user uses 6.6 different platforms, which clearly indicates that users are rarely committed to one platform,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
However, Lintz anticipates a massive backlash, primarily from content creators and companies who have spent hundreds of thousands of hours building their audiences.
“Some businesses and individual brands have paid us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to build their brands with TikTok-specific videography, daily posting and growth strategies. If they ban it, it will all disappear overnight, leading to extreme resentment,” he offered.
Concerns grow beyond user responses
Matthew Marsden, vice president at endpoint management company Tanium, said some could argue that TikTok is dangerous because of the influence of social media on the younger generation.
“There is an even more real possibility that the popular platform is backed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and used to conduct influence operations and collect sensitive personal and biometric data,” Marsden told the E-Commerce Times.
“This is incredibly worrying because the CCP can easily coerce China-based companies to share information to support the party’s objectives,” he said. “The Chinese intelligence strategy is focused on long-term objectives and is driven by the continuous collection of data.”
TikTok’s vast user data collection now includes commerce and purchase information combined with biometrics and activity tracking. Marsden warns that all this gives detailed intelligence to be used in the operation.
“This data can be leveraged to provide targeted, timely and often personalized psychological operations against individuals or groups of citizens. This has been seen in recent years during election cycles and politically charged events,” he said. Explained.
Perhaps an even more important concern is that TikTok users can no longer trust that an app or website will keep their data secure. Proactive measures are necessary as cybersecurity threats become a pervasive aspect of our daily lives, offered Craig Luray, CTO and co-founder of cybersecurity software firm Keeper Security.
“There are also concerns about who has access to this data, especially when it’s a nation-state,” Luray told the E-Commerce Times.
Need other actions?
Mike Parkin, senior technical engineer at Vulkan Cyber, suggested that two separate issues may be involved. His company provides SaaS solutions for enterprise cyber risk mitigation.
“Opening an online marketplace is a natural evolution of the TikTok e-commerce space and a fusion of marketplace platform and social media influencers. Whether or not social commerce itself and TikTok getting into that market is a good idea is a different question,” Parkin told the E-Commerce Times.
Lintz doesn’t think banning TikTok is the right solution. The impact on American content creators and businesses that make a living from TikTok could be dire. “I believe the right solution is to set guidelines for a US majority stake in TikTok,” he said.