US Legislators Pass Bill To Ban TikTok

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Legislation that mandates China-based company ByteDance to sell TikTok or risk a US ban on the platform is on the verge of becoming law, following the Senate’s approval of a foreign aid package containing the provision.

The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature, who has pledged to sign it once it clears both chambers of Congress. The House greenlit the foreign aid package, including the TikTok bill, over the weekend.

Upon presidential approval, ByteDance would have a grace period of up to a year to divest TikTok or face a de facto prohibition of the platform in the US.

The initial timeframe for divestment is nine months, with an option for the president to extend it by three months in case of progress toward a sale. However, potential legal challenges might postpone the enforcement of the ban.

Strategic manoeuvres in the House facilitated the Senate’s decision, which has now twice endorsed the TikTok legislation.

Initially, House lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the bill as a standalone measure with a shorter divestment period of six months. However, key Senate figures remained undecided about its fate in their chamber.

“Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance, TikTok or any other individual company,” emphasised Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “Congress is acting to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, maligned operations, harming vulnerable Americans, our servicemen and women, and our U.S. government personnel.”

“The truth is, these Chinese companies at the end of the day, they don’t owe their obligation to their customers, or their shareholders, but they owe it to the PRC government,” asserted Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner.

“In the context of social media platforms used by nearly half of Americans, it’s not hard to imagine how a platform that facilitates so much commerce, political discourse, and social debate could be covertly manipulated to serve the goals of an authoritarian regime, one with a long track record of censorship, transnational repression, and promotion of disinformation.”

Warner acknowledged the concerns of TikTok’s young American user base, assuring them that the legislation is not aimed at silencing their voices. He emphasised the need for meaningful consumer protections in the tech industry. President Biden expressed his intention to swiftly sign the bill into law to expedite aid to Ukraine, signalling the urgency of the legislation.

Reports indicate that TikTok has informed its employees of plans to legally challenge the law if enacted.