KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Colleen O’Brien: Who’s afraid of little old TikTok?

May 12, 2024, 1:52 PM | Updated: 1:58 pm

tiktok ban...

In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is displayed on an iPhone screen on April 24, 2024. (Photo illustration: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

(Photo illustration: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Why did President Joe Biden, with the overwhelming support of Congress, place a nine-month choke hold on TikTok? That’s the question to which few know the answer, but could lie in another case of an app that spilled the location of U.S. nuclear silos.

“For the last few years now, we’ve heard two presidents, not just President Biden but also former President Trump, argue that there is a national security issue with TikTok, but the government has never made a public accounting of what that issue is,” CBC Tech Contributor Ian Sherr said on Seattle’s Morning News.

More on TikTok: Cantwell must not obstruct full Senate from debating TikTok’s future

Sherr said there have been private meetings with Congress where the case has been made, but the American public has yet to hear any of it. That could be what spurred the lawsuit by TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance. The lawsuit argues the ban violates the First Amendment.

“Part of what I think is going to be interesting about this lawsuit is that it may force the government to actually be able to explain itself and explain what this danger is, instead of merely gesturing at national security as a reason for doing it,” Sherr said.

ByteDance’s lawsuit goes on to explain that this is the first time in history that Congress has singled out a company (which they refer to as a “speech platform”) for a ban. And therefore, bars millions of Americans and others from taking part in this online community.

While evidence of this “national security risk” has been hard to come by, Sherr shared a story about running app Strava, which was really popular among members of the military for a time. The app tracked the user’s runs and allowed competition among friends, but also featured a map of the U.S. that became problematic.

More from Colleen O’Brien: Mount McKinley became Denali; will Mount Rainier’s name also change?

“It had a map of the United States where you could see where everyone was running” Sherr explained. “Well, if you zoomed in on suspected classified areas of this country, imagine in the desert somewhere, you could see where people were running around nuclear silos, right. And suddenly, this app was leaking national security (information).”

Right now, the lawsuit sits with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Colleen O’Brien: Who’s afraid of little old TikTok?