The 352-65 vote in the US House of Representatives this week to ban or force the sale of the popular social media app TikTok by its Beijing-based owner ByteDance is an attack on the democratic rights of the American people, especially the most of 170 million people, mainly young people, who regularly use this application.

It is an escalation of the long-running campaign to censor left-wing and opposition views on the Internet, while stoking anti-China sentiment to intensify trade war measures against Beijing and prepare the population for open war with China. second largest economy in the world.

President Joe Biden gave the green light to overwhelming bipartisan approval of the right-wing authoritarian bill in the almost evenly divided, Republican-controlled House when he declared last week that he would sign the ban if it passed Congress. It must now be approved by a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate – a prospect that remains uncertain given the bill’s current language – before heading to the president’s desk.

US politicians routinely declare TikTok a threat to “national security”, alleging that the application’s algorithm and use of artificial intelligence are used to collect information and manipulate American citizens for Beijing’s benefit. These accusations are nothing more than confessions, as this is exactly what large North American corporations are already doing, collecting and selling data from Internet users. And it has long been known that the US government illegally spies on the entire world population.

The renewed effort to effectively eliminate the app, whether through its purchase by a US-based company or through a de facto ban through massive punitive fines, has developed amid the app’s rise as the most popular platform among young Americans to get news and share their opinions. The app has 170 million active monthly users in the US, with almost half of users between the ages of 18 and 34. As users post and view content on a wide range of topics, videos critical of US foreign policy routinely go viral.

Since Israel launched its genocidal campaign with the full support of the US against Gaza in October last year, hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world have watched videos on the app that expose the horrific reality for Palestinians on the ground. and cut the path. Zionist propaganda.

The head of the Zionist Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, who was caught in leaked audio calling it the “TikTok problem”, supported banning the app on the grounds that it facilitates the spread of “anti-Semitism” – a slur that is hurled against all those who oppose the genocide in Gaza.

Banning TikTok was first attempted under President Donald Trump in 2020 as part of his trade war measures against China. An executive order he signed banning downloads of the app on Apple and Android devices was ultimately blocked by a federal judge for violating the Constitution’s First and Fifth Amendment rights to free speech and due process. The current Biden-backed bill is as sweeping as Trump’s attack.

In the years that followed, we saw the institutionalization of censorship on social media and efforts to capture and eliminate platforms that were once open to free political discourse and used to organize opposition movements. Users of social media platforms have discovered that certain words or phrases, such as “Gaza” or “genocide”, will have their posts flagged and suppressed.

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms were turned into wastelands under pressure from Congress due to alleged concerns about the safety of children and teenagers. Fascist billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter in 2022. The application, which was fundamental for those who organized the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions of 2011 and for those who followed these events, was transformed into X, a platform where the most filthy anti-Semitism, anti-xenophobia immigrant and anti-LGBTQ content is regularly promoted by its owner.

Since 2020, the World Socialist Web Site has been banned from the biggest discussion forums on Reddit, which is being increasingly sanitized and commercialized as it moves toward becoming a publicly traded company. Meanwhile, Google continues to manipulate its search algorithm to suppress results from the WSWS and other left-leaning sites.

On Thursday, YouTube politically censored the World Socialist Web Site by flagging as “age restricted” a video of the talk given by WSWS International Editorial Board Chair David North at the University of Michigan on March 12, titled “The Gaza Genocide and the Death of Aaron Bushnell: What are the political lessons?”

Among those salivating at the prospect of acquiring TikTok is Trump’s former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin – an instigator of the campaign against the company – who announced Thursday on CNBC that he has assembled a group to buy the billion-dollar operation. Similarly, right-wing video hosting service Rumble, which hosts Trump’s Truth Social, announced interest in buying TikTok. The anti-democratic trajectory of the application under such ownership is clear.

Internet censorship is seen as a fundamental part of the American ruling class’ preparations for great power conflict, most openly against China and Russia, i.e. the preparations for World War III. The Biden administration built on the national security strategy outlined by the Pentagon under Trump in 2018, which declared that “long-term strategic competition requires the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power – diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement and military law.

This has meant increasingly aggressive trade war measures for supposed national security reasons, from the current effort against TikTok to the ban on the use of China-based Huawei equipment over 5G networks. This is being expanded to call for a ban on the import of electric vehicles and batteries from China and the paranoid hysteria that Chinese-built sea cranes are spying on Americans.

The social media platforms that have been developed over the last two decades have proven to be critical instruments in the hands of the working class, which is what strikes fear in the ruling class and motivates the growing censorship regime. Workers and young people must oppose the growing campaign of online censorship, which aims above all to close the avenues available to find oppositional content and mobilize against capitalist exploitation and war. And they must mobilize against the campaign to foment anti-China hysteria designed to set the stage for open war between nuclear-armed powers, which would be devastating for billions of people around the world.


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