Vocal proponents of a TikTok ban are among the top recipients of donations from the pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC.

by Derek Seidman, Truthout

On March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act by an overwhelming 352 to 65 margin. If legislated, it would ban the hugely popular TikTok social media app in the U.S., where it has 150 million users — unless its owner, the Chinese tech company ByteDance, sells off TikTok within six months to a buyer not “controlled” by a “foreign adversary.” The U.S. Senate could take up the TikTok bill soon, and President Joe Biden has said he’ll sign it into law.

While U.S. geopolitical and economic competition with China is the underlying driver of the ongoing attacks on TikTok, another factor has emerged: its role in spreading news about the plight of Palestinians amid Israel’s monthslong assault on Gaza that has killed over 33,000 people and wounded over 76,000. Key backers of the TikTok ban have, with little evidence, openly criticized the app for being “anti-Israel.”

a user holds a phone with tiktok on the screen

Truthout spoke to several tech experts and Palestinian organizers about the TikTok bill. They stressed that social media platforms have offered Palestinians the ability to document and share their stories with mass audiences across the world. For younger people in particular who sympathize with Palestinians, apps like TikTok have been ways to gather news and spread information. All this comes even as social media platforms — TikTok included — have been accused of flagging and repressing pro-Palestinian content.

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