May 20, 2024

A bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force the sale of the social media and video app TikTok or face being banned in the United States.

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The bill calls for Chinese tech company ByteDance to divest TikTok or the popular social video app will effectively be banned in the U.S. It passed overwhelmingly, 352-65.

The legislation, dubbed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, was introduced March 5 by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. Two days later, House members on the Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, which refers to TikTok as a threat to national security because it is controlled by a foreign adversary.

The bill now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future as senators appear divided about the legislation, and other federal and state-led efforts to ban TikTok have stalled.

The fight over TikTok has created a big divide in Congress, but not along partisan lines. Democrats like Eric Swalwell and Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene objected to the measure, though for different reasons. In the Senate, one of the most outspoken critics is Republican Rand Paul.

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While the bill does not ban TikTok outright, it gives ByteDance six months to sell it before it will be effectively blocked in the U.S. It poses an interesting question as to whether or not the government has the right to do so, and if this does, in fact, impact speech, as TikTok proponents have claimed.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have cited multiple reports that the app collects too much personal data and that the Chinese government has access to that data because Chinese law dictates that Chinese businesses hand over such information. Concern among conservatives has also been that the bill is a “poison pill” that would allow the government to later force the sale of Twitter/X or another platform if Democrats wanted to.

Former President Donald Trump expressed concerns last week that such a move would strengthen Meta/Facebook, a company that he has attacked for its role in the 2020 election and in banning him from mainstream social media platforms.

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