The head of TikTok is reportedly planning a trip to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with lawmakers who have harshly criticized the app over its purported ties to the Chinese government and concerns over censorship and privacy.
This appears to be the first visit that the TikTok chief, Alex Zhu, has been called to account for the short video-sharing platform. TikTok has become an oft-discussed target among those in the US government, who recently opened a national security
investigation and have questioned how close the relationship is between the platform and its China-based parent company, ByteDance.
TikTok has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times globally, an indicator of its rapid rise as a platform -- especially loved by teens -- for creating and sharing short videos and launching the latest viral memes across the internet.
TikTok has faced increasing scrutiny over ties to its parent company, a $75 billion company based out of China called ByteDance. TikTok has consistently defended itself by asserting that none of its moderators are based in China, and that no foreign
government asks the platform to censor content. However when pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong earlier this year, TikTok was curiously devoid of any hints of unrest, and videos instead documented a prettier picture.
In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, four Republican members of Congress are demanding that the Justice Department enforce existing obscenity laws to censor pornography.
The letter was signed by Jim Banks of Indiana, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Brian Babin of Texas. The representatives remind the AG of a promise made by President Trump to go after the adult industry with obscenity
laws already on the books. The letter reads:
Dear Attorney General Barr:
We write to you today out of concern for the rule of law as well as the welfare of our people.
The Internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral. This explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence towards women and an
increase in the volume of human trafficking as well us child pornography. Victims are not limited to those directly exploited, however, and include society writ large. This phenomenon is especially harmful to youth, who are being exposed to obscene
pornography at exponentially younger ages.
Fortunately, U.S. obscenity laws exist that, if enforced, can ameliorate this problem, as you well know from your previous term as U.S. Attorney General when you effectively shut down the pornography industry and dramatically
decreased child pornography in America.
Those U.S. laws prohibit distribution of obscene pornography on the Internet. on cable/satellite TV. in hotels/motels, by retail or wholesale establishments, and by common carrier. Yet the enforcement of obscenity laws was stopped by
the Obama Administration when Attorney General Eric Holder disbanded the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the Criminal Division.
In August 2016, then-candidate Donald J. Trump signed the first-ever anti-pornography pledge. This asserted that, if elected, President Trump would enforce federal obscenity laws to stop the explosion of obscene pornography. This
pledge has so far been ignored in the Trump Administration with the result that the harms of illegal pornography have continued unabated, affecting children and adults so acutely to the point that 15 state legislatures have declared that pornography is
causing a public health crisis. It is imperative that you follow through on this important campaign promise diode by Mr. Trump.
Given the pervasiveness of obscenity it's our recommendation that you declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority and urge your U.S. Attorneys to bring prosecutions against the major producers and
distributors of such material.
We urge you to take this simple yet important step toward protecting the lives of those affected by these long ignored crimes. We look forward to your response regarding this request and other action the Department of Justice is
prepared to take in light of these abuses.
Jim Banks of Indiana
Mark Meadows of North Carolina
Vicky Hartzler of Missouri
Brian Babin of Texas.
In a major victory for privacy rights, a federal court has held that the federal government's suspicionless searches of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices at airports or other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional.
In recent years, as the number of devices searched at the border has quadrupled, international travelers returning to the United States have increasingly reported cases of invasive searches.
Documents and testimony we and the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained as part of our lawsuit challenging the searches revealed that the government has been using the border as a digital dragnet. CBP and ICE claim sweeping authority to search our
devices for purposes far removed from customs enforcement, such as finding information about someone other than the device's owner.
The court's order makes clear that these fishing expeditions violate the Fourth Amendment. The government must now demonstrate reasonable suspicion that a device contains illegal contraband. That's a far more rigorous standard than the status quo,
under which officials claim they can rummage through the personal information on our devices at whim and with no suspicion at all.