Rep. Ayanna Pressley warns TikTok ban may fuel anti-Asian sentiment


Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D, MA-7) has raised concerns that a potential nationwide TikTok ban could heighten "anti-Asian and Chinese sentiment."

Key points:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday that would give TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, six months to divest or face a U.S. ban.

  • As the House voted to pass the bill, many raised concerns over the rapid process and limited consideration of stakeholder input.

  • Rep. Pressley, who advocates for data privacy legislation covering all platforms, expressed criticism against the rushed approach.

The details:

  • The bill passed 352-65, with bipartisan support, just over a week since the bill was proposed.

  • Rep. Pressley told Politico: “Certainly there are things we should be considering when it comes to data harvesting and privacy for all social media, for all big tech, not just limited to TikTok. I also have serious concerns regarding the First Amendment, but I also think this is simply just fomenting anti-Asian and Chinese sentiment.”

  • Rep. Cori Bush (D, MO-01) and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D, WA-07), have joined Pressley in voicing opposition to the ban, emphasizing the potential impact on livelihoods and First Amendment concerns. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D, FL-10) has also argued against the bill, asserting it unfairly penalizes TikTok users and small businesses without adequate stakeholder input.

  • TikTok has sent out a notification that warns U.S. users of a threat to their "Constitutional right to free expression."

China’s warning:

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  • Beijing, through foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, earlier warned on Wednesday that a TikTok ban "will inevitably come back to bite the United States itself."

  • “Although the United States has never found evidence that TikTok threatens US national security, it has not stopped suppressing TikTok,” Wang said, according to Agence France-Presse. “This kind of bullying behavior that cannot win in fair competition disrupts companies’ normal business activity, damages the confidence of international investors in the investment environment, and damages the normal international economic and trade order."

What's next:

  • After passing in the House, the bill now faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, where key figures express reluctance towards such a drastic move against the popular app.

Big picture:

  • Pressley's concerns reflect broader fears within the Asian and Chinese communities of increasing xenophobia and discrimination amid recent geopolitical tensions and security debates.

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