(WASHINGTON)— Banning TikTok sets an alarming precedent for addressing legitimate concerns over safety and privacy on the social platform, PEN America said today, following passage by the House of a bill that would ban TikTok in the United States unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells it.

PEN America urges the Senate to reject the bill and if it passes, for President Biden to veto it.

“Banning TikTok establishes an alarming precedent for addressing legitimate privacy and security risks posed by social media platforms,” said Laura Schroeder, Congressional Affairs lead. “The House has taken a sledgehammer to the challenge when it should look for a narrow solution to the problem at hand. Americans use TikTok widely for news, business and as an outlet for fun and creativity. If the goal is to secure the privacy of Americans online, we need to enact strong, comprehensive consumer privacy and data protection legislation rather than a blanket ban on one platform. This bill is a vast overreach and does not address the underlying privacy concerns that are truly needed.”

The writers and free expression group signed a letter with other advocacy organizations expressing deep concern over H.R. 7521, the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.”

In advance of the bill’s passage, PEN America joined the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and many other civil society organizations in a coalition letter in opposition to the legislation over the violation of the First Amendment. The letter called the ban on TikTok a violation of basic free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution, noting it also grants the President broad new powers to ban other social media platforms based on their country of origin.

Further, PEN America said it was deeply concerned with the international implications of a ban on a social media company. The organization pointed to the alarming trend over the past few years of authoritarian or authoritarian-leaning governments seeking to temporarily or permanently ban various social media platforms.

Schroeder said: “The U.S. government has widely condemned these actions by governments abroad as censorious, and yet today, the House of Representatives resorted to this problematic practice. By its action today, the House will now give other governments a green light to curtail free expression.”

The coalition letter stated: ​​”H.R. 7521 is censorship — plain and simple. In a purported attempt to protect the data of U.S. residents from Chinese government acquisition, this legislation would forbid app stores and internet hosting services from offering TikTok so long as the company remains under foreign ownership. Passing this legislation would trample on the constitutional right to freedom of speech of millions of people in the United States.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057