Australia work this morning to the news that the US Congress had voted overwhelmingly in an almost entirely bi-partisan fashion to introduce a ban on TikTok in the USA if the parent company ByteDance does not sell it’s stake in the business/app.

For those looking for some context, what’s happened here is the US Congress voted 352 in favour and 65 against a bill called “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act”

The subtext of that bill title is “To protect the national security of the United States from the threat posed by foreign adversary-controlled applications, such as TikTok and any successor application or service and any other application or service developed or provided by ByteDance Ltd. or an entity under the control of ByteDance Ltd.”

So let’s call it what it is, the Anti ByteDance bill.

That’s cool. ByteDance is a Chinese company which has shareholders around the world, and owns the TikTok App. TikTok isn’t available in China, instead a separate app called Douyin is available there, and it will come as no surprise to anyone that if you search for videos or information about Tiananmen Square and the protests and massacre that took place there – there’s nothing on Doyin about it. Search for that on TikTok and you’ll see what you’re looking for (assuming someone has posted it!).

So is the Chinese Government censoring TikTok – doesn’t seem that way.

Are they looking at our personal data? No, but the story that comes back to bite TikTok here is one of Chinese employees some years ago using server data to look at things like the IP address of journalists on the platform. Those staff were fired and the company’s data practices changed as a result, but – it’s hard to shake one shocking incident like that from your record, so it continues to haunt them today.

Even now when they spend huge dollars moving data offshore and into the USA specifically for US users, the Congress seems not to believe the company’s CEO who sat before them at a hearing.

In fact, it seems they chose to disbelieve every word he said, because this bill now seeks to ban TikTok unless ByteDance sell it, and given the Chinese Government themselves say they won’t allow that (which does, I hear you, signal a link between them that creates just the same pause for concern) then it looks like US TikTok users might need to find a new platform soon.

For what it’s worth, TikTok’s CEO says they have invested heavily in keeping data safe and keeping it free from outside manipulation.

This Bill now has to pass the US Senate, which isn’t a guarantee, but given the Republican’s voted broadly with the Democrats over there in the House, the same could happen in the Senate, and President Biden seems keen to sign off on it if it reaches his desk.

Strangely, wanna-be re-elected President Donald Trump now doesn’t agree with this ban, despite himself calling for TikTok to be sold to a US company during his time as President.

Back home, Australia’s PM Anthony Albanese said you’d “need to have an argument for it, rather than automatically just ban things,” to ABC Radio.

He also added “I think you’ve got to be pretty cautious. You’ve always got to have national security concerns front and centre, but you also need to acknowledge that for a whole lot of people, this provides a way of them communicating,”

“We haven’t got advice at this stage to do that (legislate a ban on TikTok). We don’t use TikTok on government phones, and that is an appropriate measure that we’re putting in place.”

One thing you’ll notice here is there’s been no security advice suggesting TikTok was a risk. So why would it be banned?

With all the revenue going into TikTok from US companies would likely be diverted to Zuckerberg’s Meta platforms – that’s good for business right?

In Australia, a TikTok spokesperson said “We welcome the Prime Minister’s comments that Australia has no plans to ban TikTok. Any changes to TikTok in Australia would have a significant impact on the 350,000 businesses, and more than eight-and-a-half million Australians, who use the app to connect and grow their businesses. Action being taken in the US is not based in fact, and we are hopeful that the US Senate will consider the impact on the millions of small businesses and 170 million Americans who use the service.”

The fact is this is all ridiculous over-reach by almost racist and bigoted politics, hating on a platform just because its roots are in China.

What’s needed here is regulation and data security laws. Australia already has strict data security laws and if breached would cost TikTok handsomely, and remember this, Facebook and Google know just as much and likely far more about you than TikTok does.

In my view, TikTok has created the single greatest algorithm in Social Media History. An hour on Instagram Reels will show you that the content isn’t anywhere near as fresh, relevant or niche as that you can see on TikTok – if these platforms want to compete, they should compete on product, not on lobbying.

Fear mongering and click-bait headlines, that’s what’s driving the China-Hating TikTok Ban stories and reporting – there’s very little basis in fact around the creation of or imposition of a Bill like that in the USA

All the while, the US President Joe Biden has been using the platform for campaigning in the upcoming US Elections. Hypocrisy much?