US Passes Law That Would Ban TikTok If It Refuses To Sell The Platform

The United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that could eventually ban the social media platform TikTok in the country, in its latest attack against both China and big tech.


The bill received resoundingly bipartisan support, with a vote of 352 to 65 in favour. It now heads to the 100-member Senate, where its prospects are less clear although, President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk.


If Joe Biden signs the bill, it automatically turns to law and TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance would be given about six months to divest from its US assets or see its video-sharing app banned in the US.


The legislation stems from concerns that ByteDance is owned by the Chinese government. Government officials have expressed fears that the data TikTok collects from its roughly 170 million American users could pose a national security threat.


Recent national security laws passed in China, which can compel organisations to assist with intelligence gathering, have further boosted those concerns.


Tiktok's parent company, Bytedance, however, has repeatedly maintained it operates independently of the Chinese government.

Speaking on Wednesday, March 13, US Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers said the legislation has “given TikTok a clear choice”.

“Separate from your parent company ByteDance, which is beholden to the CCP [the Chinese Communist Party], and remain operational in the United States, or side with the CCP and face the consequences,” she said. “The choice is TikTok’s.”

Opponents of the bill cited concerns about freedom of speech and called the move a knee-jerk effort.

“Rather than target one company in a rushed and secretive process, Congress should pass comprehensive data privacy protections and do a better job of informing the public of the threats these companies may pose to national security,” Representative Barbara Lee, a progressive stalwart, posted on the social media platform X.


In advance of the House vote, a top national security official in the Biden administration held a closed-door briefing with legislators to discuss TikTok and its national security implications.


Several TikTok supporters, including prominent content creators on the platform, gathered in front of the US Capitol on Wednesday in advance of the vote. The company also issued a statement opposing the vote.

“This process was secret, and the bill was jammed through for one reason: It’s a ban,” TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said in a statement.

“We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realise the impact on the economy, seven million small businesses and the 170 million Americans who use our service.” 

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