The Enemy Within

An American flag displayed on a laptop screen and a TikTok logo displayed on a phone screen are seen in this illustration photo. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The kerfuffle in Congress over TikTok is a strange one. It feels as if the U.S. government is doing its job (for once!) and somehow not doing much of anything.

Do you worry that tens of millions of young Americans now get their “news” from a platform controlled by a totalitarian communist regime? You should, especially in an election year. If so, you’re presumably cheered by Wednesday’s House vote in favor of a bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell the platform or else see it barred from app stores in the United States.

Do you also worry that social media writ large is saturated with foreign propaganda and that enemy states are harvesting data from American users? The TikTok ban won’t do much about that, I’m afraid. As one House Democrat noted Wednesday, there’s nothing stopping the Chinese government from buying Americans’ personal data from willing brokers. And five minutes spent on The App Formerly Known as Twitter is enough to know that anti-Americanism will continue to thrive online even if TikTok doesn’t.

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