While Texans and other Americans are enjoying TikTok and its benefits to education, creative expression, and business marketing, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and are considering a ban on the app, while the Republican-led Texas Legislature recently banned TikTok from state owned devices. Where these individuals fall short is by failing to remember that over 150 million Americans who use and love TikTok risk encroaching on our personal freedoms by telling us what we can and cannot access online.
TikTok has become engrained in American culture. Not only does it allow creative expression, but it also has educational benefits allowing Americans to learn and grow throughout their lives. With TikTok, students broaden their horizons, discover future careers, and grow their personal networks. Teachers can share original content to create a more engaging and fulfilling learning experience. For instance, UT Austin Chemistry Professor Kate Biberdorf uses TikTok to make science fun and accessible to her nearly 200,000 followers. This kind of connection to one’s peers, access to new information, and ability to amplify one’s voice is invaluable.
In addition to its uses as an educational resource, TikTok also serves as a free marketing tool for business owners to share their products and services with the world. Many small businesses depend on TikTok to generate income and reach new customers. There are countless examples of businesses who have flourished with TikTok, some of which may have had to shut down if not for the marketing support TikTok provided. A ban on TikTok would be devastating for these businesses and could stop new ones in their tracks.
And if that is not enough, a ban on TikTok is an infringement on our right to free speech as American citizens. Prohibiting TikTok in the U.S. and telling American citizens what they are allowed to do and see is tantamount to the kind of government censorship seen in China and other authoritarian regimes.
If lawmakers are so concerned with data security, they should look at other social media platforms, too. While members of Congress continuously attack TikTok, they turn a blind eye to platforms like Meta or Discord, which have been responsible for personal data leaks and the dissemination of sensitive national secrets.
Banning TikTok is not the solution. It is the responsibility of Congress to protect American’s freedom of speech and expression, and it is our right to use TikTok to express ourselves.
Timon Atmar of Austin, Texas has over twenty-five years of experience dealing with enterprise-wide solutions for both software and services.