On the heels of a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, digital rights group Fight for the Future has launched a campaign opposing US lawmakers’ proposal to ban TikTok. The #DontBanTikTok campaign explains why efforts to ban TikTok are unserious and distract from policy priorities like strong Federal data privacy legislation, which would actually protect people from corporate and government surveillance.
See the page here: DontBanTikTok.com
“If it weren’t so alarming, it would be hilarious that US policymakers are trying to ‘be tough on China’ by acting exactly like the Chinese government. Banning an entire app used by millions of people, especially young people, LGBTQ folks, and people of color, is classic state-backed Internet censorship,” said Evan Greer (she/her), director of Fight for the Future. “TikTok uses the exact same surveillance capitalist business model of services like YouTube and Instagram. Yes, it’s concerning that the Chinese government could abuse data that TikTok collects. But even if TikTok were banned, they could access much of the same data simply by purchasing it from data brokers, because there are almost no laws in place to prevent that kind of abuse. If policymakers want to protect Americans from surveillance, they should advocate for strong data privacy laws that prevent all companies (including TikTok!) from collecting so much sensitive data about us in the first place, rather than engaging in what amounts to xenophobic showboating that does exactly nothing to protect anyone.”
While appealing to anti-China sentiment and hand wringing over ‘what the kids are doing on TikTok’ may be politically expedient, it’s deeply counterproductive and moves us away from online safety and human rights, not toward it. The ACLU today also sent a letter opposing the latest legislative attempt to ban TikTok, arguing that it’s unconstitutional and a threat to free speech.
The petition on the campaign page is addressed to US lawmakers, and reads, “I want my elected officials to ACTUALLY protect my sensitive data from China and other governments. Stop feeding moral panic and pass a real data privacy law to stop Big Tech companies—including TikTok!—from harvesting and abusing our personal data for profit.”
Fight for the Future has a 10+ year history advocating against government surveillance and censorship. The group is best known for organizing massive online protests that helped defeat SOPA/PIPA and in support of net neutrality and online privacy.