US politicians are trying to ban TikTok! They say it’s because of the app’s ties to China, and let’s be real: the Chinese government is scary and oppressive. But censoring TikTok won’t address valid privacy and security concerns. The RESTRICT Act is political showboating at its worst and President Biden has said he will sign it if it lands on his desk. All it will do is reinforce xenophobic tropes and silence millions of people who’ve built a platform on the app and use it for news, entertainment, activism, and community.

Sign the petition to tell US lawmakers: “I want my elected officials to ACTUALLY protect my sensitive data from China and other governments. Stop feeding moral panic and pass a real data privacy law to stop Big Tech companies––including TikTok!––from harvesting and abusing our personal data for profit.”

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Over 100 million people in the US use TikTok every day.

Here’s how creators are reacting to this ban:

Wait, who’s calling to ban TikTok?

Lawmakers and regulators are trying to ban TikTok for everyone in the US. Already, more than 25 states have banned it from government devices, including wifi networks on college campuses. Now, the RESTRICT Act, would give President Biden the ability to ban TikTok for all users in the US, and his administration is in full support.

The calls to ban are full of ridiculous claims and hyperbole: in December, one Congressman even called it “digital fentanyl.” 🙄 During the congressional hearing, members of Congress showed they don’t understand how social media apps are used or how young people use them. It begs the question: would 70-year-old politicians care so much if TikTok weren’t such a powerful organizing tool for young activists advocating for stuff like LGBTQ rights and gun control? On top of that, it’s deeply ironic that our lawmakers are trying to be “tough on China” by mimicking the Chinese government’s aggressive online censorship. The ACLU has asserted that banning TikTok would “violate the free speech of millions.”

Aren’t TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government a real concern?

We should all be concerned about how apps like TikTok collect and abuse our personal data. But singling out just one app shows a massive ignorance of how governments, including our own, already spy on us and put pressure on companies to manipulate our feeds.

Yes, it’s worrying that the Chinese government could access the data that TikTok collects. But TikTok’s just one head of the hydra. Other apps collect really personal data about us too, and China’s government could simply go out and buy it from a data broker, or get it a million other ways. TikTok uses the same exact data-hungry business model used by platforms like Facebook and YouTube, and as long as some companies are allowed to collect massive amounts of data, we’re all in danger of the details of our digital lives used to hurt us. 

To stop governments like China’s from accessing and abusing the data that companies have on us, we need to prevent apps and companies from collecting so much of our personal data in the first place. 

So what should we do instead of banning TikTok?

If US lawmakers really care about our privacy, they should get serious. We don’t need more hyperventilating about TikTok: we need strong privacy and transparency laws, and antitrust action to break up the companies getting rich off their data empires.

Right now the US’s privacy laws are embarrassingly weak. Because our lawmakers haven’t gotten their act together, companies from Amazon and Google, to Kroger and, yes, TikTok, are free to exploit our digital selves to make money. We need a national data privacy law to stop companies from harvesting our personal data—a strong law that gives us the power to sue the companies that abuse our trust. A strong data privacy law could also crack down on data brokers, so that governments can’t just purchase information about us that they wouldn’t be able to get with a warrant.

Another reason our data privacy problems are so terrible: tech companies have been allowed to get too big. We have laws that are supposed to prevent data-hungry monopolies like the Meta-Facebook-Instagram-WhatsApp monstrosity. Instead of banning TikTok, which would further reduce competition and help Big Tech monopolies get bigger, Congress should break up Big Tech and create space for alternatives to grow. We deserve social media that’s not controlled by any government, and where our privacy and basic human rights are respected. 

Sign the petition to tell US lawmakers: Don’t ban TikTok! To really protect us, pass privacy and antitrust laws to rein in Big Tech and protect all Internet users’ safety and human rights.

Want to add your voice to the wave of creators and TikTok users speaking up? Make a video and we’ll add it to our petition. Send them our way! Email us at [email protected] or DM it to us on Instagram @fightfortheftr.

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