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Who are getting hurt by TikTok ban?

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By Zhu Chenge

Once again, the actions of the United States add a layer of irony to its oft-mentioned term “fair competition.” On April 20, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the legislation compelling the social media app TikTok to divest from its parent company, ByteDance, within a specified timeframe. This suggests that TikTok may be at risk of completely disappearing from the American mobile app stores.

This legislation just slightly modified the ban bill passed in March. The single bill was included in a larger foreign aid package, which is purposely designed to accelerate its adoption in the next move.

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It’s not the first time American politicians have targeted TikTok. The Trump administration once issued executive orders banning any U.S. commercial transactions with TikTok. The Biden administration, in 2022, prohibited federal employees from using the app on government devices. Last year, Montana also issued a comprehensive ban on it. This time, facing a final ultimatum from the U.S. Congress, TikTok said in a statement that the ban “would trample the free speech rights.”

TikTok is not alone in expressing disappointment, as it’s clear that there must be more entities affected by this turmoil. The first and foremost to bear the brunt are TikTok’s 170 million American users, who comprise over half of the total U.S. population. Since it entered the American market in 2018, TikTok has been beloved by the American populace for its unique entertainment value. The U.S. quickly became the largest global market for the application.

American teenagers, in particular, are feeling the impact deeply. A survey conducted in 2023 revealed that over three-quarters of Generation Z are using TikTok. They must be wondering: why are we being prohibited from using our favorite mobile app? Well, the answer lies in Washington D.C.

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Countless individuals who make a living on TikTok are lamenting the potential economic losses. Over 5 million small- and medium-sized enterprises have TikTok accounts. TikTok Shop, having carefully selected over 250,000 outstanding businesses to join, is also emerging as one of the most promising e-commerce platforms in the U.S., not to mention the independent artists who share their work, interact with fans, and earn income on the application.

The positive momentum in business development led by TikTok is likely to be disrupted by the ban. This change could trigger a new round of restructuring and upheaval in the economic chains within the U.S., potentially affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.

This bill doesn’t just target TikTok; it places other mobile applications from foreign origins under strict scrutiny and high risk. According to the bill, this legislation will assist the U.S. government in identifying foreign applications that “pose a national security threat” to the U.S.

This suggests that TikTok might just be the first victim on an undisclosed blacklist. Any mobile application enjoying popularity in the American market could be accused of being a potential threat to U.S. national security simply because it originates from a foreign country. These companies have no right to defend themselves because the U.S. government will be the sole authority to interpret the situation. This raises a question: Who will be the next victim?

Last but not the least, such a bill affects the U.S. the most. When the U.S. marshals its full might against a mobile application, it signifies a new peak in overstretching the concept of national security within the country. These American politicians, driven by a cold-war mentality, are willing to jeopardize the credibility of their own laws and stake America’s image in the international community on the bet, all in an attempt to deal a severe blow to innocent businesses.

Despite the efforts of U.S. politicians to distort the domestic discourse on China, countless sober-minded Americans still feel sympathy and disappointment for TikTok’s plight. Unfortunately, the voices of these Americans are not heard on Capitol Hill.

The TikTok ban underscores that tech companies in the U.S. are facing greater risks and uncertainties, with more and more harassment and suppression from authorities. Companies need to have a clear understanding of this and be prepared to face unfounded accusations from authorities anytime, anywhere, as well as the risks of trade bullying.

But at the same time, businesses should not lose confidence because of this. TikTok’s responses to ban bills is a good example, demonstrating that through clear, independent ownership structures, a deep understanding of the rules of the game, and a confident and inclusive attitude, it is still possible to garner enough support. Moreover, countering the authorities’ ungrounded claims with facts will also highlight the absurd actions of the U.S. Congress.

While applauding the heroism of these businesses, we also need to think more carefully about the root causes of the policy chaos in the U.S. Companies like TikTok do not pose a threat to U.S. national security; rather, the real instigators harming the domestic economic and political environment are the U.S. itself.

Source: CGTN

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