U.S. House Passes Bill Banning TikTok Unless Chinese Owner Divests Stake

The U.S. House has passed a bill to ban TikTok unless its Chinese parent company sells its stake, citing national security concerns. The bill now heads to the Senate, with President Biden indicating he would sign it into law.

Ayesha Mumtaz
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U.S. House Passes Bill Banning TikTok Unless Chinese Owner Divests Stake

U.S. House Passes Bill Banning TikTok Unless Chinese Owner Divests Stake

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would effectively ban TikTok in the United States unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sells its stake in the popular video-sharing app within one year. The measure was included in a $95 billion foreign aid package that received bipartisan support and passed by a vote of 360 to 58.

If enacted, the bill would force ByteDance to divest from TikTok or face a nationwide prohibition. The legislation gives ByteDance a nine-month deadline to sell the app, with a possible three-month extension. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. President Biden has indicated he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Why this matters: The passage of this bill marks an extraordinary and unprecedented move by the U.S. government to oversee a major tech platform over national security concerns. It sets a precedent that could have far-reaching implications for other foreign-owned apps and companies operating in the United States.

Lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns about TikTok's potential national security risks, citing the possibility of the Chinese government demanding access to user data or forcing the app to promote Chinese propaganda. "TikTok is a clear violation of the First Amendment and would have devastating consequences for the 7 million small businesses on the platform," TikTok said in a statement, pledging to challenge the bill in court.

Despite TikTok's efforts to address these concerns, such as storing U.S. data on Oracle's servers and allowing U.S. workers to vet its algorithms, legislators remain skeptical. The company has had some success in previous legal fights over its operations in the U.S., with federal courts ruling that bans on the app are unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.

If the ban goes into effect, it would prevent new users from downloading TikTok, and current users would lose access to updates, causing the app to decline over time. Some tech-savvy users may be able to circumvent the ban using methods like offline app installation or VPNs, but it would be inconvenient for most people, leading them to switch to competing services.

The bill's quick passage through Congress is seen as extraordinary, as lawmakers have traditionally taken a non-interventionist approach to tech regulation. Both parties and intelligence officials are worried that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over American user data or direct the company to suppress

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. House passes bill to ban TikTok unless ByteDance sells its stake within 1 year.
  • Bill gives ByteDance 9-month deadline to sell TikTok, with possible 3-month extension.
  • Lawmakers cite national security concerns over potential data access and propaganda.
  • TikTok pledges legal challenge, arguing ban violates First Amendment.
  • If enacted, ban would prevent new downloads and cause app to decline over time.