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Can Congress legally ban TikTok?

Can Congress legally ban TikTok?

It was a stark warning at the worldwide threats hearing in the Senate Monday.

“China’s aspirations for greater geopolitical power will probably become all the more apparent,” said Avril Haines, director of national intelligence.

Amid discussion of two brutal wars, came alarms about TikTok. Lawmakers are preparing to vote on the fate of the app. A bipartisan measure would force the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell TikTok or potentially be banned in U.S. app stores and web-hosting services.

Critics of the bill, like the ACLU, call it “unconstitutional,” saying the move would be a blow to free speech. Supporters like Republican Sen. Marco Rubio say not only can private data of TikTok users be accessed by China’s government, the app shapes the way an entire generation thinks by controlling what users see and don’t see in their feeds.

That assertion led to an exchange with FBI Director Christopher Wray.

“If they went to them and said, ‘We want you to change your algorithm so that Americans start seeing videos that hurt this candidate or help that candidate in the upcoming election,’ ByteDance would have to do that under Chinese law,” said Rubio.

“The different kinds of influence operations you’re describing are extraordinarily difficult to detect, which is part of what makes the national security concerns represented by TikTok so significant,” said Wray.

According to the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment, “Beijing is expanding its global covert influence,” and “TikTok accounts run by a PRC propaganda arm reportedly targeted candidates from both political parties during the U.S. midterm election cycle in 2022.”

A TikTok spokesperson told Scripps News the legislation has a “predetermined outcome — a total ban of TikTok in the United States.”

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