Washington is targeting TikTok

The United States is moving against TikTok. On Thursday, the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce voted unanimously in favor of a bill that, if passed, would lead to a nationwide ban on social media on all electronic devices in the US if the app was not spun off from the Chinese company ByteDance. In particular, the latter would have 165 days to sell TikTok.

The bill, which is due to be voted on in plenary soon, enjoys rare bipartisan support. It was introduced by the Republican congressman Mike Gallagher and he got the support of the Speaker Mike Johnson as much as the White House itself. “It's not a ban,” he said Gallagher. “It puts the choice to sever their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party directly in the hands of TikTok. If ByteDance no longer owns the company, TikTok can continue to survive. People can continue to make all the stupid dance videos they want on the platform, or communicate with their friends and stuff like that. But the basic ownership structure has to change,” she continued.

TikTok, for its part, is trying to react, urging its users to put pressure on their representatives in Congress to prevent the approval of the rule. However, it is not the first time that Washington has targeted this social network. Already in August 2020, the then American president, Donald Trump, signed an executive order requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok, arguing that the company could jeopardize U.S. national security. However, in June of the following year, Joe Biden revoked his predecessor's ban, although – in December 2022 – he signed a law prohibiting the use of TikTok on electronic devices belonging to the federal government. A further turning point on the part of the current president came when, as already mentioned, he announced that he wanted to support the new bill that the House is about to vote on.

As unfortunately often happens to him, Biden has taken an irresolute and contradictory attitude on a dossier of significant importance. And the paradox is not over. Yes, because if on the one hand he rightly supports the bill under discussion, on the other it should be remembered that, just last month, the current president opened his own account on TikTok for electoral communication. Yet another spin, with which Biden, beyond the dangers to national security, risks sending a message of weakness and confusion to the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. And that could prove to be a gigantic problem in terms of deterrence.

As you rightly pointed out Tommaso Alessandro De Filippo in his recent volume “West.The free world as an essential global guide”, “at the moment Russia and China are determined to crumble the Western front and will not change their structural closeness and mutual support regarding imperialist ambitions.” Well, it is precisely through the technological sector that Beijing mainly conducts its malicious activities in terms of interference, propaganda and espionage against Western countries. This is why, despite Biden's errors and contradictions on the topic, the alliance between the Chamber and the White House on the TikTok dossier is today of extreme importance from at least two points of view. First, this alliance highlights the need for bipartisan action when it comes to national security. Second: if the bill were to be definitively approved, it could – who knows – also be imitated by other Western countries.