TikTok’s days may be numbered

TikTok is one step closer to being banned.

The TikTok ban bill is in essentially its last stage before being officially signed into law. This is because Biden has stated that if the bill does pass the senate, that he will sign it. The bill which would ban TIkTok is currently working its way through the senate, where its prospects look rather unclear. While many senators have stated that they are in favor of the ban, the future is still unclear. This is mainly due to the fact that the senate does not seem keen on voting on the bill any time soon. 

While the future of TIkTok is looking grim, there is still one final hoop the government will need to jump through. While it is not officially a part of the process, it is all but guaranteed that the Supreme Court will step in to have the final say. 

The court system has gotten involved with a bill that would ban TikTok two other times already. The first was when Donald Trump attempted to outright ban the app in the United States through executive order. The U.S. court system shut former president Trump down quickly, with a federal judge in Washington stating that the proposed bill was “arbitrary and capricious,” also commenting that Trump was overstepping his abilities as president, according to NPR. It’s important to note that the court system in this case did not shut down the bill itself, but rather pointed out that the president simply doesn’t have the authority to completely ban an app just by executive order, and that a bill would need to make its way through the house and senate to even be considered. 

The second TikTok ban attempt occurred in the state of Montana, who once again simply decided to ban the app outright. This move by Montana was to immediately cut TikTok off at the state level, and had the utmost support of state officials behind it. Naturally, this proposal ended up in court, where it was stopped entirely by U.S. district judge Donald Molloy, who found that Montana’s proposed bill “oversteps state power” and “likely violates the First Amendment.” 

Whether or not banning an app would be considered constitutional is a matter of the Supreme Court, which if the bill is passed, will most certainly end up needing to make a decision, but history leans in the favor of TikTok, so that means it probably won’t be banned. 

Or does it? If we examine the previous two cases which attempted to ban TikTok, both were struck down because they overstepped the power of the people proposing it, not because the ban itself was something that wasn’t feasible for a government to do. This bill has been making its way through congress just like any other law, so if the bill is passed and then challenged in court, the question wouldn’t be about how lawful the means by which the bill was passed, but whether or not it is allowed by the Constitution. The amendment that will most likely be brought into question is the First Amendment, and 170 million Americans use TikTok, a staggering number, which is more than half of the population of the United States. It would be a messy case, since it goes into territory that the government has never seen, and thus the decision would be a landmark that would probably be the base of many other court decisions that revolve around similar situations. 

A final consideration is the influence that the U.S. government brings into the decision. It’s no secret that the U.S. government is using a potential TikTok ban to try and force Bytedance, a company based in China, to sell it to a U.S.-based company. This stance by the U.S. government carries some weight, since for the first time in a long time, congress has found something that both political parties agree on.  Otherwise, the TikTok ban would cut off their U.S. customers, but the U.S. government has been trying very hard to make this about protecting the American people. They point out that China is probably going to use the algorithm of TikTok to influence elections in favor of candidates that hold views of which China finds favorable.  This isn’t a very far-fetched situation, given the opposing governments which run either country, but if the U.S. government wants to make its argument about how we need to ban TikTok to protect the U.S. citizens from foreign influence in political affairs, then the result is an important court case that could go either way. 

The idea that TikTok may be banned is not some absurd thought anymore, and saying that the Supreme Court will just revert the decision immediately like the court system has done the other two times is not a guaranteed outcome. China has already banned Facebook, X and Google for more than a decade at this point. Banning TikTok is going to be the United States getting back at China in some capacity. A TikTok ban is not an unreasonable possibility, and it could very well soon become a reality. 

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