US House Passes Bill That Could Ban TikTok

A ban would come only if Chinese owner ByteDance declines to divest from the popular app

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Mar 13, 2024

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that could result in a nationwide ban of TikTok.

On Wednesday, the bill — titled the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act — passed by a vote of 352–65. The legislation will now move to the Senate, and while its path to adoption from there presently remains unclear, US President Joe Biden preemptively promised he would sign the bill should it reach his desk.

The bill proposes that TikTok's parent company, China-based technology firm ByteDance Ltd., divest ownership of the mobile app within 165 days of the bill becoming law. Should the ban come into effect, it would be illegal for digital app stores and web servers in the US to host or distribute TikTok.

The bill would also allow the president the ability to determine which applications potentially tied to foreign governments are a national security risk, and subject them to similar consequences.

American lawmakers believe that ByteDance is beholden to the Chinese government, and view TikTok as a threat to national security in accusing the parent company of exploiting the data of American users — a claim for which no evidence has been provided.

"We have given TikTok a clear choice," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. "Separate from your parent company ByteDance, which is beholden to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], and remain operational in the United States, or side with the CCP and face the consequences. The choice is TikTok's."

TikTok has long denied that it is owned or controlled by "any government or state entity" in or out of China. It describes parent company ByteDance as "a privately-held global company" that is "roughly 60 percent owned by global institutional investors," naming private equity giants Blackrock and General Atlantic among them.

If signed into law, the legislation will almost certainly face legal challenges. After Montana became the first state to ban TikTok, both the company and content creators on the platform filed respective lawsuits to have the legislation overturned, arguing that the ban infringes on First Amendment rights.

"This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: It’s a ban based on zero evidence," TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said in a statement after the vote [via Associated Press]. "We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service."

Canadian privacy protection regulators announced plans to investigate TikTok last February, a move that preceded the app being banned from federal government devices.

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