Is Banning TikTok a Mistake? A Debate.

President Biden just signed into law a bill forcing the sale of TikTok by its Chinese parent ByteDance—or else face an outright ban. The measure was included in a bill providing…

President Biden just signed into law a bill forcing the sale of TikTok by its Chinese parent ByteDance—or else face an outright ban. The measure was included in a bill providing a $95.3 billion foreign aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. 

Proponents of the bill cite privacy and national security concerns. TikTok, like all social media giants, collects piles of user data—and if requested by the Chinese Communist Party, ByteDance is obligated by law to share that user information. Critics also worry about political influence operations on the platform—a dictatorial foreign adversary turning our kids into little Manchurian candidates.

Opponents of the bill argue that forcing a TikTok sale under the threat of a ban is a blow to users’ free speech rights and represents an overreach of government authority. They insist that the government should not dictate which apps Americans can use, especially on opaque grounds of national security. 

Today, a debate: Is American national security at risk from an Orwellian app ultimately controlled by a totalitarian regime? Or is this just McCarthyism in digital form, a government-created moral panic fueled by dubious threats of misinformation? 

Arguing that the TikTok bill is a logical extension of our current laws—and a necessary countermeasure to authoritarian meddling—is Geoffrey Cain. Cain is the author of The Perfect Police State and senior fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. 

On the other side, arguing that the bill is a dangerous overreach justified by flimsy evidence of an alleged threat, is Walter Kirn. Kirn is a novelist, Free Press contributor, editor-at-large of County Highway, and co-host of the podcast America This Week

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