US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Monday that the federal government is looking at banning TikTok, like India. But that would be an uphill climb for the United States, whose domestic politics and court system would pose challenges that would be hard to navigate without smoking-gun evidence that the app is harmful to Americans' security, something India has not produced. Free speech First off, there's the first amendment — free speech law in the US constrains the government from even blocking websites, something it does rarely outside of child porn and terrorist content, which tend to be international efforts. When the US does block access to websites or tries to thwart foreign influence on them, it uses other regulatory and legislative tools at its disposal, like seizing domains (like it did for Megaupload), scuttling mergers (like it did for Grindr), or blocking undersea cable infrastructure between the US and China. As Fortune's Jeff John Roberts points out, US courts have long upheld code as free speech, which would give TikTok owner ByteDance a reasonably clear path to blocking such efforts. Politics and optics Aside from the legal awkwardness of such a heavy-handed move, there's also the optics of banning a service that in the US has emerged as an anti-establishment voice. While Trump has moved to dilute the safe harbour social media companies have as intermediaries, an outright ban would attract backlash from free speech advocates and political opponents alike. What's more, regular citizens polled by Morning…
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