Ban TikTok Today

The first AI war has started, and Congress should respond accordingly to blunt China’s attacks on American youth.

Counsel and Senior Director of Legal Affairs, Allegiance Strategies
Adjunct Fellow
TikTok. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In 2018, Australia banned Huawei tech in their 5G network. Great Britain in 2020. Both nations joined a list of countries, led by the U.S., who were clear eyed about the threat posed by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) technology. Chinese diplomats let the world know how they saw the issue, calling bans on their tech “the first shot” in a larger war.

In that sense, TikTok represents the second offensive of the CCP’s larger tech-centric warfare, and America must respond with the same clarity as before.

Warfare consistently evolves, with information and propaganda serving as pivotal tools in the strategic arsenal of states. During the world wars, leaflets were dropped over enemy territories and radio broadcasts were sent into occupied areas to manipulate morale. Today, leaflets and broadcasts have been replaced with an unlimited stream of misleading, trending videos in the palms of our kids’ hands.

But TikTok isn’t merely a tool of influence; it's an instrument of covert algorithmic warfare wielded by the CCP against the very fabric of American society.

China’s National Intelligence Law exposes TikTok as a mandated vector for Beijing’s subversive activities. The CCP's ownership and control of ByteDance, the corporate owner of TikTok, isn’t simply a silent investment. It serves as a strategic foothold — a digital beachhead — within the borders of their chief ideological adversary. The CCP sees TikTok as more than an app for entertainment; it’s a vehicle for cultural penetration and cognitive influence.

In its latest form, the CCP uses algorithms to push antisemitic material and misleading videos on TikTok. Israel is erased from maps, Hamas propaganda is promoted, and barbaric “explainer” videos are delivered to Americans “contextualizing” Hamas’ savagery. Yet this is only a piece of Beijing’s effort to exploit fault lines in America.

There’s a growing list of dystopian TikTok trends:

150 million Americans have downloaded the app destroying us from within. That’s twice the U.S. population of children — TikTok’s attack is now spreading beyond our kids.

Both political parties should recognize that a CCP-controlled TikTok is anathema to the values we champion. The same platform that innocuously disseminates dance crazes is sowing discord, spreading propaganda, and manipulating political discourse. It’s a tool that can influence not only the individual user but the collective psyche and politics of our nation.

The U.S. must reassert its commitment to technological sovereignty and enact critically needed social media rules to rid our nation of foreign authoritarian influence once and for all.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) is tasked with evaluating and obviating national security risks posed by foreign investments. It has been investigating ByteDance since 2020 but has failed to act — it’s time for Congress to step in.

Winning this war doesn’t mean stopping technological progress on AI and the algorithms that power it. We shouldn’t shun AI, but rather build it in a way that ensures the continuance of the American way of life, fostered by American companies, free from authoritarian influence.

Engaging in this war isn’t optional. Greater danger is down the road. The TikTok algorithm frankly isn’t that sophisticated, and when it comes to weaponized AI, there will be bigger threats to contain and prepare for. The CCP has already deployed AI-based tools in several sinister ways — it uses AI facial recognition to oppress, imprison, sterilize, and kill Christians, Muslims, and democracy activists. The potential for compounding AI risk is real as generative models become more sophisticated, especially in the hands of unethical researchers.

One thing is certain: We’ll be much weaker and more divided in the coming battles if we don’t ban TikTok right now.

The CCP openly seeks to invade the minds of our youth and it’s time for the U.S. to respond with strength and speed, safeguarding our nation from the warfare being waged on the invisible battleground of information.

We currently are losing this war — but only because we've so far refused to fight.  With this week's passage and signing of the TikTok bill, it seems America is finding its footing, but the outcome of the broader conflict is far from certain.

Read in RealClearPolicy.