Political Sting on TikTok

Renee Parsons

At the outset, let me share that I have no experience with TikTok, having viewed its videos less than could be counted on one hand.  I am, however, an unabashed devotee of the First Amendment and view the recent adoption of a ban on TikTok as nothing less than a political sting on an unconstitutional expansion of government censorship as well as an element in the neocon geopolitical target on China.  

While HR 7521 was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a unanimous 50 – 0 vote on March 11th with minimal hearing,  Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Application Act” was immediately scheduled for a House floor vote less than 48 hours later.  

The Act was brought to the House floor ‘under suspension’ which limited debate with no amendments allowed, a common practice to deny opposition a real opportunity to publicly air its merits and allow a roll call vote to test its strength.    

In a convenient realignment of the Uniparty, it is obvious that the Federal government perceives TikTok’s alleged moral decay on 170 million GenZ as an attack on national security rather than potential election interference or that an estimated 24,000 undocumented  Chinese immigrants who have already crossed the US border.         

Touted as a ban on what former Rep. Ron Paul calls the ‘most dangerous, anti American act since the Patriot Act”, HR 7521 banned the TikTok app on ‘national security’ grounds without providing any shred of evidence of where or how viewing the app threatens national security.  

Predominately owned by international investors rather than the Chinese Communist party, the TikTok ban allows the President as sole authority to identify and eliminate any app or website as a ‘national security’ hazard unless its owner divests within 180 days of enactment.   

…”to protect the national security of the United States from the threat posed by foreign adversary controlled applications, such as TikTok and any successor application or service and any other application or service developed or provided by ByteDance Ltd. or an entity under the control of ByteDance Ltd..” and  

“..it shall be unlawful to distribute, maintain, update, enable or host foreign adversary controlled apps…” well you get the point.  This is about more than TikTok although a convenient scapegoat…

At first glance, it might seem reasonable to believe that the 13 page Act was totally focused on TikTok which begs the question of why it was written in unnecessarily complicated verbiage rather than more simple, straightforward legislative language.  The Act required an entire reading to fully understand its implications since the actual legislative language as approved by Congress is rarely ever read aloud or even mentioned during a Floor debate.  In other words, loopholes may exist that become more obvious, less vague or innocuous upon close scrutiny. 

House debate was clearly focused on China as the alleged ‘foreign adversary’ although other countries may qualify as ‘foreign adversary’ as Israel based on its bazillion dollar gifts over the years and US initiated multiple wars in the Middle East on behalf of its proxy for Israel.  

The final vote was a spectacular 352 – 65 with 15 Republicans and 50 Democrats voting against which occurs, most often, on behalf of AIPAC, or in this case, on behalf of the ADL.  The vote was ‘Spectacular’ given its timing and urgency rather than a commitment to world peace or banning corruption or buttressing the US Constitution – as the Congress rarely unites to benefit the American people or to prohibit US participation in espionage or election interference via any foreign adversary or any unilateral action closing the US border.    

While the US makes no secret of spying or conducting surveillance on its own citizens, the US would prefer to limit that right to its own homegrown intel networks as it spies directly on the Chinese with our own three letter agencies.    

As Rep. Tom Massie (Ky) labeled the Act a Trojan Horse which has the intent to mislead the public or deceive its real purpose; therefore raising the potential future use of the Act against other social media sites like X or Rumble or to eliminate certain politically offensive websites, all in the name of protecting Americans from TikTok. 

Most importantly, the Act generously provides the President with very broad sole authority via an interagency process  to decide which websites or apps Americans can visit or digitally add with broad discretion beyond TikTok and ban any web site or other social media site deemed to be a ‘national security’ threat.  Majority of Americans, however, prefer not to have information sharing decided by government bureaucrats, even in the Oval Office.                      

Questions remain exactly how the Federal government will criminalize TikTok violators since the Attorney General has an identified role. Will the FBI pursue the GenZ Americans who dare to enjoy the site? 

Here are a few not-so-fun facts to consider:

  • (1) civil penalties  

a.  Establishes a violation schedule to include $5000 for a convoluted FACA violation or 

b. $500 for data and information violations with the US Attorney General conducting investigations and initiating charges before the appropriate Federal District Court;  

  • (2)  Defining a ‘covered company’ 
  1. (A)an entity that operates, directly or indirectly (including through a parent company, subsidiary, or affiliate), a website, desktop application, mobile application, has more than 1,000,000 monthly active users;”
  • (B) Exclusion “….does not include an entity that operates a website, desktop application, mobile application, or augmented or immersive technology application whose primary purpose is to allow users to post product reviews, business reviews, or travel information and reviewswhich could easily be edited out. 
  • *  (3) Foreign Adversary Controlled Application  The term ‘‘foreign adversary controlled  application’’ means a ‘website, desktop application,  mobile application, or augmented or immersive technology application that is operated, directly or indirectly (including through a parent company, subsidiary, or affiliate), by…”
  • (6. A) Qualified Divestiture:  the President determines, through an interagency process, would result in the relevant covered company no longer being controlled by a foreign adversary; or 

B. “precludes the establishment or maintenance of any operational relationship precludes the establishment or maintenance of any operational relationship”…   

  • Section 3  Judicial Review – this one got my attention: another indication this process is about more than TT 

Right of Action

Exclusive Jurisdiction:  DC Circuit Court of Appeal

Statute of Limitations: not later than 165 days after enactment; action finding or determination 90 days after enactment 

Renee Parsons served on the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and as president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, staff in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth and a staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC.   


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