The Federal Communications Commission is revisiting a Trump administration decision to ban the Chinese TikTok app that was mothballed by President Joe Biden.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr recently sent a letter to the CEOs of Google and Apple calling for them to remove TikTok from their app stores. Carr slammed ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, as being under Communist Chinese control and in compliance with surveillance demands.
Carr very specifically warned that the app is far from the innocuous short video-sharing amusement it appears to be. It is, he told the CEOs, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. TikTok, he said, is a “sophisticated surveillance tool” to sweep up huge amounts of “personal and sensitive data.”
The commissioner cited a Buzzfeed report alleging ByteDance staffers in China access data from U.S. users that may compromise national security. He called the wildly popular app an “unacceptable national security risk” that gives Beijing unlimited access to American’s data.
Interestingly, that is the exact reasoning former President Donald Trump used to issue an executive order barring new U.S. downloads of TikTok and WeChat, another Chinese app.
Legal challenges blocked the ban’s implementation, and Trump attempted another measure to force a sale to U.S. investors that never materialized. The American Civil Liberties Union decried the move as a blatant violation of 1st Amendment rights.
The Biden administration formally rescinded Trump’s executive order early last summer. In its place came a new executive order to investigate Chinese apps and software with “rigorous, evidence-based analysis.”
In other words, it’s not a legitimate concern unless the Democratic White House declares it is. And something amusing has happened since then. Even critics who questioned the former president’s motivation — such as possibly censorship — came around to his security concerns.
Carr’s letter gave Google and Apple until July 8 to remove the apps or give a response explaining how the Chinese misuse of data does not conflict with their policies. Just last week, six Republican senators asked the White House for an update on its “investigation.”
India already banned TikTok for the reasons cited by former President Trump, and Australia is looking to do the same. As for the U.S., national security concerns need to far outweigh the Biden administration’s eagerness to wipe out everything Trump attempted to accomplish.