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Indiana delegation backs TikTok ban

House approves bill to force TikTok sale

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation on Wednesday said they don’t consider legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives a true ban on TikTok.

Indiana’s nine representatives joined nearly 350 of their colleagues to vote in favor of a bill that would force TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell it within six months. If it doesn’t, app stores would not be permitted to carry the app, and web hosting services would have to block access to it, though tech experts have said users could still access TikTok through virtual private networks. President Joe Biden has said he will sign the bill if it reaches the Oval Office.

Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Indiana, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which worked on the bill. He said that even though the bill itself was only introduced in Congress a week ago, it’s the result of years of collaboration among Congress, the Department of Justice, and the intelligence community. He said directing ByteDance to sell TikTok rather than explicitly banning the app ensures the bill does what its authors intend without running afoul of the First Amendment.

“It does not deal with content at all. It has nothing to do with content and it’s not a ban on TikTok,” he said.

Bucshon and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, said intelligence officials have told lawmakers ByteDance is a national security risk. Bucshon said intelligence officials told him during a classified briefing that Chinese officials are using data collected through TikTok to populate their AI platforms.

“Unlike privately owned companies, a communist government-owned platform is filled with national security risks,” Carson said in a statement, “allowing foreign adversaries to clandestinely surveil and unduly influence American users through the collection of user data and monitoring and manipulating the content Americans share and consume.”

Civil liberties groups including the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology have said the bill is still an unconstitutional act of censorship. In a letter sent to lawmakers on March 6, leaders from those organizations wrote the courts have determined censorship in the name of national security is only permissible if it is necessary to prevent extremely serious, immediate harm to national security, something they said has not been demonstrated with TikTok.

The CDT’s Kate Ruane said if lawmakers are truly concerned about users’ data being compiled for nefarious purposes, they should instead pass stricter consumer privacy laws. She said even if ByteDance is willing to sell TikTok, it’s not realistic to expect the company to find a suitable buyer and clear all of the necessary antitrust hurdles in six months.

“It will cut Americans’ access off to a critical communications platform at a pretty critical time as our elections are coming up in November,” she said.

The bill’s path through the Senate is unclear. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not committed to a vote. Sen. Todd Young’s office told News 8 that the upper chamber has several bills of its own concerning TikTok. A spokesperson said Young is reviewing all TikTok-related legislation but generally supports efforts to address national security concerns surrounding the app.