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TikTok blanket ban unlikely, Cornell expert says


President Joe Biden recently signed a major spending bill into law. Part of that bill included banning the social media video app TikTok on federal government devices.

This is not the first time the government has tried to ban the app. Sarah Kreps, who directs the Tech Policy Institute at Cornell University, said policies from the Trump administration, which tried to ban the app in 2020, have picked up steam.

"TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, is collecting data on a vast number of Americans," Kreps said. "I think that's the sense in which there has been this momentum behind these bans on TikTok."

How does TikTok differ from other social media companies? Congress is able to hold Facebook and Twitter accountable, but cannot with TikTok since it is China-owned.

"With ByteDance, those accountability measures don't exist," Kreps said. "So China says they're not collecting data, even if they were, even if they admitted it, what kind of accountability mechanisms are there?"

Senator Marco Rubio introduced legislation to ban the app entirely. Kreps said a blanket ban like that is unlikely.

"I think the point would be not to preclude it entirely, but to make it more difficult, a little bit like kind of the prohibition ban in the [1920s] on alcohol," Kreps said. "If we think about where the risks lie, it's probably more with government and individuals who work in government and their movements, their preferences than it is, you know, a 13-year-old in middle America."

Democratic State Senator Kevin Thomas introduced a bill which would ban the app on New York state-issued devices. That bill is currently in committee.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.