If you haven’t already heard, many people on the Internet are speculating that President Trump may choose to ban the popular video sharing app known as TikTok. There is fear that because TikTok is owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance, the app may be used maliciously by China to collect data from it’s American users. Just last week, Congress advanced legislation to block federal employees from using the app on government-issued devices, according to NPR.
Many American TikTok users are wondering if it is even legal for the U.S. government to ban the app. Is it a violation of free speech? Will our rights be taken away if this ban were to occur?
When it comes to matters of National Security, the rights of American citizens can be suppressed in situations where our nation is being threatened. It’s no secret that our nation’s relationship with China is strained right now – to put it lightly. If President Trump sought to ban TikTok from the U.S., he could issue an executive order declaring the app to be a threat of national security under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. This law stems from the century-old Trading with the Enemy Act.
“An Executive Order banning a mobile application from interacting with U.S. users would be pretty unprecedented, particularly given the fact that it’s an entertainment application,” says Raees Mohamed, Internet attorney, “It will also be interesting to see how U.S. advertisers and other mobile app companies respond to the TikTok ban. The true purpose of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act is to prohibit financial transactions with entities that are a national security threat. Would the Order mean that Americans cannot advertise with Chinese platforms? Why TikTok? I think an Order will certainly draw scrutiny from the tech community in America and in China. I am sure TikTok has already considered doing a legal restructuring to avoid this sort of ban. It will be interesting to see what happens.”
If this Act were to be invoked, Americans and U.S. based institutions could face hefty civil fines or criminal prosecution for any transactions made with TikTok. In other words, it would be illegal for American companies to pay for TikTok advertising and companies like Apple and Google and would not be able to host the app in their app stores.
In the meantime, TikTok is considering ways to distance itself from its Chinese parent company. TikTok has already stated that for all U.S. users, its data is stored on U.S. shores and does not go offshore to China.
We will keep you updated as this situation unfolds.
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