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The debate between free speech and national security intensifies once more, with TikTok once again at the forefront.

Following the proposal of a new bill aiming to ban “foreign adversary controlled applications,” which includes TikTok, the ACLU has cautioned that the bill would violate the First Amendment rights.


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“We’re disappointed that our leaders are yet again trying to sacrifice our First Amendment rights for political gains during an election year. Despite claims by the bill sponsors that banning TikTok isn’t about curtailing speech, it’s evident that it would indeed stifle it. We urge legislators to vote against this unconstitutional bill,” wrote ACLU senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff.

The bill is scheduled for a vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee this Thursday.

“As long as it remains owned by ByteDance and thus obligated to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party, TikTok presents significant threats to our national security,” stated Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi upon the bill’s introduction.

Last December, a U.S. judge blocked a statewide TikTok ban in Montana, implemented and enacted just seven months earlier. At the time, the ACLU criticized the state’s decision, stating: “Lawmakers at state and federal levels are becoming concerned about the possibility of American users’ data being accessible to the Chinese government. While data privacy is a worry across all social media platforms, singling out TikTok indicates a racist anti-Asian sentiment. Furthermore, prohibiting a social media app would constitute a dangerous act of censoring the free speech of numerous Americans.”

Aside from the company’s legal actions, a group of TikTok content creators filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the ban not only infringed upon free speech protections but also violated the interstate Commerce Clause by obstructing the market for their monetized content.

The ACLU highlights a persistent anti-Chinese bias among political figures in their assessment of TikTok’s ownership and privacy issues. During a recent child safety hearing involving prominent social media leaders, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was questioned multiple times about his connections to China and the Chinese Communist Party, despite being Singaporean.

Some months earlier, U.S. officials, TikTok creators, and social media companies clashed over several bipartisan bills, including the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act and HR 1153, granting the president the authority to act against tech firms linked to China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela and ban TikTok or similar applications posing a “national security risk.”

In 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order seeking to ban Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat.

Various other foreign governments, educational institutions, businesses, federal and state agencies have also moved to ban the app due to concerns over data privacy and national security. However, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups have firmly opposed such legislation. Previous setbacks suggest that a ban of this nature is unlikely to succeed.

“The ACLU has repeatedly emphasized that banning TikTok would have significant implications for our constitutional right to free speech and expression, as millions of Americans rely on the app daily for information, communication, advocacy, and entertainment,” the organization stated. “And the courts have concurred.”


Chase sits in front of a green framed window, wearing a cheetah print shirt and looking to her right. On the window's glass pane reads "Ricas's Tostadas" in red lettering.

Chase DiBenedetto
Social Good Reporter

Chase joined Mashable’s Social Good team in 2020, covering online stories about digital activism, climate justice, accessibility, and media representation. Her work also touches on how these conversations manifest in politics, popular culture, and fandom. Sometimes she’s very funny.


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