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Capitol Hill Targets More Than Just TikTok: Other Platforms Under Scrutiny

The House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this week that could ban the popular video site TikTok in the U.S. unless its parent company ByteDance divests its stake in TikTok. The problem is that ByteDance is a Chinese company that is considered to be close to the Communist Chinese government. The concern is that ByteDance collects user data when Americans sign up for TikTok and this data ends up on a server sitting on a desk in Beijing.

The next stop for the bill is the U.S. Senate where it will have a tougher time making it through than the House where the final tally of 352-65 highlighted the strong bipartisan support against ByteDance on Capitol Hill. Should the Senate advance the bill, it will head to President Biden’s desk and the president has already said that if the bill gets to his desk, he will sign it.

Per Gizmodo, the bill doesn’t stop with TikTok and could ban other apps that the president deems a “national security threat.” Santa Clara University internet law professor Eric Goldman told Gizmodo, “Nobody actually knows who’s covered by this bill. We focus on the TikTok piece because that’s obviously who would be targeted first. But this law has uncertain effects because we really don’t even know who we’re talking about.”

Facebook could also be considered under the control of a foreign adversary such as Russia, as it used surveys on Facebook groups put up by Russians to help persuade American voters to vote a certain way in 2016. Again, that would require an extremely broad understanding of the bill.

Evan Brown, a Chicago-based tech lawyer says, “There’s plenty of room here for creative interpretation for how someone could be in a foreign country calling the shots without being an owner. The President really has the unchecked power to put another app on this list.” The bill can ban apps with as few as one million monthly users.

Make no mistake about it, ByteDance/TikTok is public enemy number one and is the main target of the bill. But most lawmakers have no love for social media apps like Facebook and “X.” So if other platforms get killed off, well, it is just collateral damage and nothing that those on Capitol Hill will lose sleep over.

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