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Efforts to ban TikTok within the United States are turning out to be much harder than anyone originally anticipated. While the U.S. government has taken steps to ban the use of TikTok by its federal employees, almost nothing has been done to stop average Americans from using TikTok. Something is very off here. Why would the government conclude that TikTok is unsafe for its own employees, but perfectly OK for the public?
Why banning TikTok might be harder than you think
The answer is simple: Always follow the money. And, in this case, it looks like TikTok has been spending extravagantly on U.S.-based lobbying efforts, even going so far as to hire a former Biden Administration Pentagon official as a lobbyist. You can’t make this up. The former Defense Department Deputy Press Secretary and former National Press Secretary will now be a key point person for TikTok as its new Communications Director. So, at the same time as the Pentagon has banned the use of TikTok by its employees, a former Pentagon official is now shilling for TikTok!
According to the latest statistics, ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company of TikTok, spent over $1 million on lobbying efforts in 2Q 2022, and then another $100,000 in 3Q 2022. The Chinese are doing nothing wrong here, of course, as long as they declare all the money they are spending on trying to change the opinions of key lawmakers. But the amount of money they are spending is alarming. TikTok has assembled a team of lawmakers and congressional staffers who can speak the language of political dealmaking and are now going after their enemies aggressively.
TikTok vs. the US government
It will be interesting to see how things play out next, because Congress already has plans to introduce new legislation that will impact TikTok. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, is working on a bill that will ban TikTok more generally. If it goes forward, it could become a highly politicized piece of legislation.
The thinking here is that any social media app created by an adversary (China) could be somehow tainted. In a worst-case scenario, these apps might pose a direct national security threat to the U.S. We’ve all heard stories of military personnel using TikTok while stationed overseas, with the result being that the Chinese are able to track troop movements and other maneuvers.
What should be the next steps?
It’s interesting that there has not been more of an outcry by the American public over TikTok. You don’t hear about moms and dads trying to ban TikTok, or about teens vowing to never, ever use TikTok again because they are afraid of sharing secrets with the enemy. So, on one hand, you have the U.S. government that has turned hostile against TikTok, and on the other hand, you have tens of millions of Americans who look forward to the next viral video on TikTok each day.
Anyway, TikTok is not going down without a fight. Maybe if the big tech firms that spent so much time trying to censor people on social media would spend more time looking into TikTok, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. If Apple can threaten to remove Elon Musk’s Twitter from the App Store, can’t it also threaten TikTok to do the same? As long as Apple’s iPhones are made in China, you can guess the answer to that question as well. Always follow the money.