Mar. 14, 2024 |

Algorithmic life. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week banning the popular mobile-video app TikTok unless its Chinese owner, ByteDance, sells it to a non-Chinese company. The bill’s fate is still uncertain in the Senate, but a rare bipartisan majority in the House agreed that the app presents a national-security threat.

As the American legislators see it, ByteDance, though formally a private enterprise, can be forced to hand over all its data on users worldwide to the Chinese government—or promote content favoring the Chinese Communist Party’s interests.

In January 2023, Aynne Kokas explored the growing political hostility toward TikTok in the U.S. In Kokas’s view, Democrats and Republicans are following different calculations to the same conclusion in their campaign against the app—but the problem they’re trying to solve reaches too deep into the contemporary technological ecosystem to be fixed simply by banning the app or forcing its sale.