Inside the US government’s fight to ban TikTok

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For nearly three years now, the US government has been trying to ban TikTok.

Concerns over the app’s perceived risks to national security have spanned two presidential administrations and forged alliances between Republicans and Democrats. At a time of heightened partisanship, TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have become the focus of anti-China policies — a convenient villain most lawmakers are willing to fight.

Last month, that outrage reached a peak. The Biden administration reportedly threatened to ban TikTok if it failed to find a US owner. House lawmakers brought in the company’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, for an explosive hearing. At the same time, a group of senators introduced the RESTRICT Act, a bill that authorizes the government to ban the app and similar apps. This maelstrom of action has proven that the government is more determined than ever to ban TikTok.

But with a ban appearing on the horizon, critics fear that actions to take TikTok offline may do more to reduce free speech on the internet than to protect the safety and security of US user data. Other experts argue that the government’s attacks on the app are unwarranted, claiming there is little evidence that the app has done more harm than Facebook or Google.

So last month The edge went to Washington, DC, to meet lawmakers, creators, and civil rights experts. We wanted to know if the federal government would finally ban TikTok… and how the battle is affecting the internet at large.