Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 26, 2023. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) first and only TikTok video has gone viral — and in it, she outlines her case against banning the Chinese-owned social media app as its fate hangs in the balance.
Why it matters: With more than 150 million monthly active users in the U.S., TikTok is one of the most popular smartphone apps in the country. Lawmakers are pressing forward with bipartisan efforts to facilitate a ban in the U.S. amid scrutiny surrounding the firm's relationship with the Chinese government.
State of play: Critics have highlighted the fact that Chinese law requires China's companies to share information with the government.
- TikTok has repeatedly said it operates independently and works with Oracle to ensure its algorithms and content moderation models aren't manipulated by Chinese authorities.
What she's saying: The video begins with Ocasio-Cortez listing concerns about Chinese surveillance. She then says that the discussion "doesn't really address the core of the issue, which is the fact that major social media companies are allowed to collect troves of people's personal data."
- Adding that the U.S. is one of the "only developed nations in the world" without data privacy protection laws, she argues that the solution is not to ban an individual company but to "actually protect Americans from this kind of egregious data harvesting that companies can do without your significant ability to say no."
- She also pointed out that the U.S. has never banned a social media company from operating within its borders, and that Congress hasn't received a classified briefing on potential risks even though that's protocol when it comes to national security issues.
- "This case needs to be made to the public," she says. "Our first priority should be in protecting your ability to exist without social media companies harvesting and commodifying every single piece of data about you without you and without your consent."
The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez is one of several progressive members of Congress mounting a defense of the app. Her video garnered over 2.2 million views in 15 hours.
- Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) has similarly raised concern about banning a hugely popular app without more information.
- TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who faced a public grilling in a congressional hearing this week, has said that a ban would not provide any more protection than TikTok's current plan, which makes U.S. user data accessible only via Oracle Cloud and the firm's American data security team.
Go deeper: TikTok's fate may be decided by the courts
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