Banning TikTok should be a last resort. A ban would shut down an immensely popular means of communication for the tens of millions of Americans who use the app every day to share and consume information, news, ideas, political advocacy, and creative content. Legislation that targets social media platforms, including TikTok, for their moderation practices or their distribution of “propaganda” or other allegedly “harmful” content raises serious First Amendment concerns. Government retaliation for or intrusion into a private social media platform’s exercise of editorial discretion threatens platforms’ own expressive rights under the First Amendment — and potentially that of other speakers and publications, too.
While FIRE isn’t in a position to independently verify all of the national security claims raised by policymakers and government officials, we recognize the significant national security threat posed by troves of sensitive information in the hands of an adversarial government. The legal obligations of Chinese companies with regard to data sharing with the Chinese Communist Party are startling. Any government regulation that seeks to address the data privacy of TikTok users must be generally applicable and use the least restrictive means necessary to ensure the privacy of American citizens while not unduly burdening First Amendment rights.