TikTok Faces Potential Ban in the US as New Bill Proposes ByteDance Divestment

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale  - Senior Editor
4 Min Read

US lawmakers have introduced a bill that compels Chinese tech giant ByteDance to divest from the widely used video-sharing app TikTok within six months or face a potential ban.

The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce is expected to conduct a legislative hearing and vote on the bill, named the “Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” on Thursday. This bipartisan bill, introduced by 19 lawmakers, aims to address concerns about potential data access by Chinese authorities.

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Representative Mike Gallagher and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, co-authors of the bill and members of the Intelligence Committee, are scheduled to lead the legislative hearing. Both recently visited Taiwan and the larger Indo-Pacific region.

What Does the Bill Propose?

The proposed legislation classifies ByteDance and TikTok as applications controlled by foreign adversaries. It mandates the parent company to sell off the video app within 165 days or face a potential ban. The bill establishes a framework for the president, with support from the FBI and other intelligence agencies, to identify social media platforms controlled by foreign adversaries, posing national security threats to the United States.

If an app is deemed a risk, it could be removed from online app stores and web hosting providers until it severs ties with businesses controlled by foreign competitors. TikTok, previously flagged by FBI Director Christopher Wray as a national security threat, could potentially face a ban unless ByteDance divests swiftly.

Lawmakers’ Perspective

Representative Gallagher clarified that the proposed action is not a ban but rather a strategic move to address concerns. He urged US ByteDance investors to support the sale, emphasizing it as a surgical procedure designed to remove a potential threat.

This move follows unsuccessful attempts last year to outlaw TikTok, which were criticized as unconstitutional.

TikTok and White House Reactions

TikTok responded strongly, labeling the bill an “outright ban” and accusing lawmakers of infringing on First Amendment rights. A TikTok spokesperson, Alex Haurek, stated, “This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on.”

In contrast, the White House expressed robust support for the bipartisan proposal, while still considering potential amendments. A National Security Council spokesperson stated that the Biden administration collaborated with legislators to develop a long-term legal solution to address the risks posed by technology services compromising Americans’ data and national security.

TikTok’s Popularity in the US

TikTok has gained immense popularity in the United States, especially among youngsters. Despite previous attempts to ban the app, it continues to thrive. Former President Donald Trump’s efforts in 2020 and subsequent restrictions on government devices did not result in a ban. Even President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign faced criticism for joining TikTok last month.

The legislative hearing on Thursday will shed light on the fate of TikTok in the US, emphasizing the ongoing battle between national security concerns and the popular social media platform.

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