Critics argue ‘trojan horse’ TikTok bill could strengthen censorship

by Summer Lane

Photo: Alamy

The House has expedited a bill that would force TikTok to divest its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, but the legislation (H.R. 7521) is raising some serious red flags among censorship-conscious critics.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., warned on X, “The so-called TikTok ban is a trojan horse. The President will be given the power to ban WEB SITES, not just Apps. The person breaking the new law is deemed to be the U.S. (or offshore) INTERNET HOSTING SERVICE or App Store, not the ‘foreign adversary.’”

He cited the bill’s actual text, which defines “foreign adversary” as “a website, a desktop application, mobile application, or augmented or immersive technology application that is operated, directly or indirectly” through a parent company, subsidiary or affiliate of ByteDance and beyond.  

The bill’s text promotes the legislation 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.”

However, Rep. Massie, along with SpaceX and Tesla CEO, have argued that the legislation will not merely end with regulating TikTok’s relationship with ByteDance.

Musk explained on his platform, X, “This law is not just about TikTok, it is about censorship and government control! If it were just about TikTok, it would only cite ‘foreign control’ as the issue, but it does not.”

If their argument is correct, then it appears that this legislation could potentially set Americans up to suffer immensely under the thumb of federalized censorship.

Unfortunately, the bill was approved unanimously by the Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 50-0, per Reuters, perhaps signaling favorable voting conditions for the legislation once it reaches the floor.

Rep. Massie further drove his point home on X, adding, “If you think this isn’t a Trojan horse and will only apply to TikTok and foreign-adversary social media companies, then contemplate why someone thought it was important to get a very specific exclusion for their internet based business written into the bill:[.]”

He included the following screenshot from the text of the legislation:

In 2020, President Donald Trump initially pushed for a ban on TikTok based on national security concerns, but on Monday, he slightly changed his stance, noting that if TikTok is eradicated, it only makes other Chinese-linked companies like Facebook stronger.

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