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About 1/2 of Americans are on #TikTok, which US lawmakers are considering banning as tensions with #China rise. Join us at 11am PDT for a discussion on TokTok's future with Sen @MarkWarner, John Yang of @AAAJ_AAJC and Kate Ruane @PENamerica.
Our first speaker today is @MarkWarner (D-Virgina), Chair of the Sen Intelligence Committee and co-author of the Restrict Act. "I am a tech guy... I strongly believe in the positive power of technology," says Warner.
Why focus on TikTok exclusively and not on other platforms like FB and IG. "I have been relentless on the need to have a privacy bill... a kids online safety bill. All those are absolutely necessary."
But the fact that TikTok is controlled by a Chinese company puts it into a separate category. "They can get everything," Warner says.
Warner also notes the US does not have a well formulated approach to technology that is controlled by foreign governments. "We've had this approach that is not rules based... we've taken it on an ad-hoc basis."
We need a "rules based approach" he argues, that would guarantee a "day in court" for any affected technology.
150 million Americans use #TikTok for roughly 90 minutes a day. That number is far higher in communities of color. So why is this a national security issue? 1) TikTok knows you better than you realize, and Chinese engineers have access to this data.
2) This is also a potentially enormous propaganda tool. Many Americans look to TikTok for news. So the notion that the CCP wouldn't try to influence US politics is incorrect.
This is of international concern. Canada, the UK and the EU has banned TikTok on government phones. Australia is moving to take the same stems. India banned it 3 years ago, says Warner.
The BBC has urged reporters to get off TikTok for security concerns.
There is nothing in the Restrict Act that would be used to target any Americans, says Warner, noting criticisms from conservative and libertarian voices. This is not a PatriotAct 2.0, he adds.
A lot of creative things on TikTok. "I don't want that to go away... there is such a market for the ability of people to make a living that the market will create an alternative."
"The burden will be on the government to show there is a national security risk," says Warner, responding to a question about the Restrict Act's potential to harm freedom of speech.
Warner says he does not trust TikTok parent Byte Dance to destroy the data it now has. "But what concerns me more than data protection is the propaganda. As long as the algorithm resides in Beijing... I don't know how you get around this."
China has also said it would prefer to see TikTok banned in the US than give up its algorithms, says Warner, who adds, my beef is with the Chinese government, not with the Chinese people or with the Chinese diaspora.
There will be tension between protecting our national values and national security, says Warner, adding it will be up to media to "keep us honest."
Our next speaker is John Yang, President and Executive Director, @AAAJ_AAJC. Warner has been a very thoughtful partner on this question, says Yang, and is not among those seeking to scapegoat the Chinese community.
The House hearing with TikTok's executive in March was concerning, Yang adds. Geopolitical tensions with China are real. But what we have seen here in the US is a backlash against communities here such as the internment of Japanese in WWII.
During the hearing there was a targeting of TikTok's head, who is in fact from Singapore, not China. The former CEO of TikTok was a non-Asian American. There is "no doubt" the tenor of questions would have been different with him.
Being tough on China was really the goal with the hearing, says Yang. Yes, there are concerns with TikTok... but this needs to be part of a broader discussion on privacy, algorithms, harm to children. "This is a problem that is endemic to the industry."
Lawmakers look to score "easy political points," but here that need comes at a cost to the Asian American community, with a focus on Chinese Americans. We can call out the Chinese gov't, but that is different than turning on the Chinese community.
This piece from @AAAJ_AAJC explores concerns over the March House hearing with TikTok:…
Our next speaker is Kate Ruane of @PENamerica, which has focused concerns on attempts to ban the app. The org sent a letter to Congress signed by 16 civil liberty groups.
Yes, TikTok may pose risks to security, but there is a greater threat to freedom of expression by banning it, says Ruane. Even the Biden Admin has used TikTok, doing a briefing shortly after the Ukraine invasion on the platform.
Pew last year found most Americans turn to TikTok for news:…
People in the US have a constitutional right to speak their mind online, and through the channel of their choosing. Banning it will raise serious questions "about the sanctity of free speech," says Ruane.
A legislative ban on TikTok would also send an "alarming" global precedent allowing authoritarian leaders the license to shut down legitimate channels of speech arbitrarily.
Ruane points to recent protests in Iran, which quickly moved to shut down social media platforms. The US response was to urge Tehran to reopen them. Banning TikTok would contradict many of the US's positions.
A consumer privacy bill would address concerns not just of TikTok but across multiple platforms that have proven vulnerable to China and other governments, says Ruane.
There are better ways to address privacy risks posed by TikTok that an outright ban, says Ruane.
Would banning TikTok violate the 1st Amendment? SCOTUS has said ppl have the right to get information from sources they choose, even if that info comes from outside the country. So there would be 1st Amendment concerns, though not clear if it is a violation.
Consumer privacy legislation that tells companies what data they collect and what they can do with it is essential, says Ruance. We need rules of the road in this country that mitigates these concerns.
Limit data commodification... biz models should not be rewarded by click bait material, she adds.
TikTok parent ByteDance has created a new app called Lemon8 that seeks to take down Instagram. So even with a ban on TikTok, it won't be long before new apps emerge that pose the same issues, says @Siliconeer.
Use end-to-end encryption to the extent you can to protect your data, says Ruane. Visit Signal and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to learn more.
Thanks to our speakers today. Visit to see recordings from this and past events.

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