House Representatives Pass Bill that Includes the Prohibition of TikTok 

The Act requires ByteDance Ltd. to give up control of TikTok in order for it to operate in the U.S./TechCrunch

By Khalailah Bynoe

 

   On March 13, U.S. representatives passed legislation addressing measures to combat national security interference by foreign social media companies. The bill, which now passed to the Senate, includes the prohibition of any applications directly or indirectly operated by ByteDance Ltd. or TikTok in the U.S.

   Dubbed the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” it was introduced by a group of bipartisan representatives due to concerns over national security. Representatives Mike Gallagher, R-Wis, and Raja Krishnamoorthi D-Ill spearheaded the bill and claimed the popular social media app to be a security threat by Chinese authorities.

   “So long as it is owned by ByteDance and thus required to collaborate with the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], TikTok poses critical threats to our national security,” Representative Krishnamoorthi said in a Select Committee on the CCP press release on March 5.

   The House’s vote for the bill was 352 to 65; of the 65 who opposed the bill’s passing, 50 were Democrats and 15 were Republicans, according to CNN

   “This bill prohibits distributing, maintaining, or providing internet hosting services for a foreign adversary controlled application (e.g., TikTok). However, the prohibition does not apply to a covered application that executes a qualified divestiture as determined by the President,” stated Congress

   For TikTok to continue operating in the U.S, there would need to be a mandated divestiture from the Chinese Communist Party, which representatives cite would protect users.

    “Our bipartisan legislation would protect American social media users by driving the divestment of foreign adversary-controlled apps to ensure that Americans are protected from the digital surveillance and influence operations of regimes,” Representative Krishnamoorthi said in the CCP press release.

   The concern over TikTok specifically is that ByteDance Ltd., a Chinese-owned company, could take users’ data and relay it to Chinese authorities.

   “When TikTok’s CEO came before the Energy and Commerce Committee last year, he readily admitted to me that ByteDance employees in China have access to U.S. user data,” Representative Bob Latta claimed in the press release.

   TikTok’s spokespersons found this decision to be unfair because of the speed with which the bill was passed, stating that the bill is a direct ban on the social media app. 

   “This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much authors try to disguise it,” said Alex Haurek, a TikTok spokesperson in an interview with NPR

   Wang Weibin, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, stated that the U.S. does not have enough evidence to go forward with this decision.

   “Even though the U.S. has not found evidence on how TikTok endangers its national security, it has never stopped going after TikTok,” Weibin said in a statement on March 13.

   TikTok will be able to continue operating in the U.S. if ByteDance Ltd. gives up control of the app in the U.S. The legislation in its current form requires ByteDance to divest TikTok within roughly six months in order for the app to remain available in the United States, per CNBC. This would mean that an American-owned company would have to be in control of TikTok for it to keep operating in the U.S. 

   Although this is a potential solution, TikTok has amassed an estimated value of $100 billion. Major companies in the U.S., including Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, are among the few that can afford to purchase the app. These four tech companies have run into trouble with antitrust laws on many occasions, according to CNBC. This situation could make it harder for TikTok to sell in the U.S. if they choose to. 

   Despite bipartisan support for TikTok prohibition, politicians have maintained a following on the platform. This includes President Joe Biden who remarked that “If they pass it, I’ll sign it,” despite joining the platform in 2024, according to the Washington Post

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