By AFRO Staff
Activists and experts are calling President Trump’s intended ban on TikTok an attack on the First Amendment rights of Americans.
On Sept. 18, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it was enforcing Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order that prohibits WeChat and TikTok transactions with an eye toward protecting national security. The popular social media platforms, the department claimed, was being used by the Chinese Communist Party to harvest the personal data of Americans as part of their intellligence gathering.
But in trying to combat the supposed security threat posed by China, the Trump administration is, ironically, using the Asian superpower’s tactics, experts said.
“The Trump administration is effectively taking a page out of the CCP playbook by replicating cyber sovereignty in a US context,” Rebecca Lissner, a scholar at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies , told Business Insider.
Lissner, co-author of a “An Open World,” a new book on shifting global powers, added, “Rather than establishing a model for the type of global internet that the United States would hope to see, we’re actually replicating the exact types of behaviors that on a global scale we should be trying to combat.”
Civil liberties activists also are decrying the move as an act of unconstitutional censorship. TikTok is a platform that allows users to post short videos with music, filters and other features. And it has quickly become a hub for information gathering, organizing and political activism.
“This order violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, in a statement. “The order also harms the privacy and security of millions of existing TikTok and WeChat users in the United States by blocking software updates, which can fix vulnerabilities and make the apps more secure.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to protecting civil liberties in cyberspace, voiced a similar complaint, filing an amicus brief calling for the Supreme Court to overturn the Trump administration’s decision.
“A ban on TikTok violates fundamental First Amendment principles by eliminating a specific type of speaking, the unique expression of a TikTok user communicating with others through that platform, without sufficient considerations for the users’ speech,” the brief stated. “Even though the order facially targets the platform, its censorial effects are felt most directly by the users, and thus their First Amendment rights must be considered in analyzing its legality.”
On Sept. 19, the Commerce department announced it was delaying the ban until Sept. 27 in light of recent news — reportedly approved by Trump — that several U.S. companies, including Walmart and Oracle, would be purchasing majority stake in the China-based company.