Tiktok Ban By US Is Like Kettle Calling The Pot Black

As TikTok gains popularity in the United States, US House of Representatives passed a Bill to force Tiktok to be sold to a US interest, or be banned, as Tiktok exposes the horrors of Israeli genocide to the world.

On 14 March 2024, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill formally banning TikTok in the US. TikTok as we know, is a wildly popular social media app, and it belongs to ByteDance, and the US move comes with a proviso that ByteDance’s parent company sells off the controlling stake to a US-owned company.

ByteDance, a Chinese-owned company, is a strategic competitor to the United States. There are fears that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could be using the social media app to influence opinions in the United States, with the app now having 170 million users in the United States alone, up from just 100 million in 2020.   

Are US Concerns Valid?

Comical Interrogation

There is always a question of whether the US concern is valid. In the days before the House of Representatives passed the bill, they had summoned ByteDance CEO Sou Zi CHEW. The session turned out very comical, with US Republican Senator Tom Cotton repeatedly asking Chew, a Singaporean National, if he is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party, being unable to distinguish between race and nationality. The comical session, unfortunately, hurt the US House of Representatives’ ability to convince the world that they have a case with ByteDance’s Tiktok. 

The War in Gaza on TikTok

The US’ growing concern over TikTok’s operation in the US has been ongoing for quite some time. However, the concern ballooned further as Tiktok’s unfettered coverage of the Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip became apparent to the world. TikTok became a conduit for Palestinians in Gaza to share their plights with the world, showing the grizzly images that mainstream media had been censoring for years. 

Many US youths who have access to TikTok have become disenfranchised by their government’s support of Israel in the bloody conflict and, for the first time, supporting the Palestinians. 

Israel was also unable to influence TikTok to bring down these videos as much as they have with other social media platforms such as Meta and X, further hampering their effort to control the narrative surrounding this conflict.

It is also not helped by the fact that many Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers too freely shared their deeds, which, if conducted by soldiers of any other nation, would be classified as war crimes on TikTok. The soldiers’ actions even forced the IDF’s Chief of Staff, Major General Herzi Halevi, to issue a communication forbidding soldiers from committing revenge on 21 February 2024. This communication came after a damaging New York Times report on the revenge videos that IDF soldiers have uploaded onto TikTok. 

Operation ZunZuneo

But what legitimises the US’ concern that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is using TikTok as a subversive tool to subvert the US is that the US themselves had tried to use social media to bring down other nations. 

In an expose by the Associated Press published in 2014, the AP discovered that in 2009, USAID, a US government agency responsible for international humanitarian aid, began a covert project to build a social media app called Zunzuneo in Cuba. They intended to foment social unrest in the communist island nation, with the communist authority none too wise. In mid-2012, the Cuban authority discovered USAID’s involvement and blocked the application. By then, Zunzuneo had about 40,000 subscribers. Users were stunned when they found out that the USAID was involved. 

The fallout from the project was massive. US Senator Patrick Leahy, who oversaw funding for foreign activities, was stunned that the US State Department had run the project without consent and had the head of the agency testify in Congress in 2014 on the ‘dangerously misguided effort’. 

USAID Head Rajiv Shah has since denied the allegation in Congress.

China’s Reaction to the Bill

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government was unhappy with the bill’s passing. Chinese officials criticised it. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited its passing as an example of double standards protecting freedom of speech.  

China’s reaction, though, is not without irony. While they have freely penetrated the US market without much barrier, they also banned Western-based social media apps such as Meta’s FaceBook, Google, and X from entering China. A double irony is that TikTok is not available in China. Instead, another app by ByteDance, Douyin, is available. 

International Geopolitical Power Struggle

So, is the proposed ban fair? Or is it just a cover story to obscure the truth behind the ban? 

But what is apparent today is that the attempt to ban TikTok, like China’s ban of Meta’s Facebook, X, and Google, is part of an intricate, deeply strategic international power play in which we, the users, are just pawns in their overall game of controlling the narratives and popular support. 

Freedom of speech, in other words, is not about the ability to tell the truth as it is but merely a tool to create the narrative they want us to hear and believe in. – NMH

Facebook Comments

Latest articles

Related articles