US House of Representatives Passes Bill Forcing TikTok to Divest or be Banned

Tim Cross 13 March, 2024 

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill which would force TikTok’s owner ByteDance to divest the app, or else place a nationwide ban on the app. The bill, which was introduced last week, passed by a landslide with 352 members voting for it and just 65 against. The proposed law already has the backing of the White House, but will still need to pass in the Senate if it’s to come into force.

If this happens, ByteDance will have 165 days to sell off TikTok (plus any other apps it owns which run in the US). If it misses this deadline, app stores will be barred from providing access to the app in America.

A bipartisan group of representatives announced the bill last week, citing national security concerns relating to TikTok’s Chinese ownership. TikTok’s critics say that since ByteDance is based in China, it would be forced to comply with requests made by the Chinese government. This could grant China’s government access to user data from US users, and enable it to push propaganda via the platform – though TikTok says it wouldn’t comply with any government requests handed down from Beijing.

After the bill was introduced, TikTok hit back. The app presented US users with a notification encouraging them to call their representative and oppose the legislation, providing a direct link to make a call. This may have somewhat backfired, by demonstrating TikTok’s potential political influence – politicians’ offices were reportedly flooded with calls from TikTok users.

Quickly becoming a reality

The prospect of a nationwide TikTok ban in America has been floating around since former president Donald Trump issued an executive order similarly threatening a ban if the app didn’t separate itself from its Chinese ownership. A deal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart was reached in 2020, but never came to fruition, as Trump’s legal grounds for the executive order were called into question.

Reining in big tech is one of the few issues which has bipartisan support (albeit often with different motives) in America, and the potential for US lawmakers to move has hung over the app in the intervening years. Now the prospect is quickly becoming a reality.

Despite bipartisan support, there’s no guarantee the bill will make it through the Senate. The Guardian reports that some Senators have spoken out against the bill, citing concerns with how specifically it targets TikTok. Differing approaches among lawmakers to the national security concerns suggest the process could take time, with Senators likely to seek amendments before potentially voting for the bill.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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