May 20, 2024

Critics say Beijing could force video-sharing app to share data on its US users and spread propaganda.

Lawmakers in the United States are moving ahead with proposals to ban TikTok unless it cuts ties with its Chinese parent company amid claims the platform could be used to spy on Americans and manipulate public opinion.

A US House of Representatives committee on Thursday voted 50-0 to advance the bill, setting it up for a likely full vote in the near future.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said on X that he would bring the “critical national security bill” to the House floor for a vote next week.

The bill, introduced by Republican Mike Gallagher, would give Beijing-headquartered ByteDance roughly six months to divest or face a ban.

The latest push to restrict TikTok comes after former President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban the app in 2020 were blocked by the courts.

TikTok’s critics have argued that Beijing could force the platform to share data on its US users and spread propaganda and misinformation.

TikTok has denied sharing personal data with the Chinese government and insisted it would refuse any request if asked.

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression,” TikTok said in a statement accusing the legislation’s backers of seeking the predetermined outcome of a total ban.

“This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Gallagher denied seeking to ban the platform outright, saying it could continue to operate in the US “provided there is that separation”.

“It is not a ban – think of this as a surgery designed to remove the tumour and thereby save the patient in the process,” he said.

The prospects of the bill becoming law are unclear, although concern about TikTok extends to both sides of the aisle.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has backed the measures, and the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has broadly welcomed the proposals while indicating the legislation “still needs some work” to gain its support.

In November, a judge blocked the state of Montana from implementing its first-of-its-kind ban on TikTok, saying it violated the free speech rights of users.

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