Senate Passes Bill That Could Ban TikTok In U.S.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would force ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, to sell the social media platform or face a ban from U.S. app stores.

The TikTok ultimatum was included in a larger package of legislation that provides foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel. House Republicans made this decision last week to help expedite the TikTok bill’s passage in Congress after earlier discussions had stalled. The combined package was passed 79-18.

The revised TikTok bill gives ByteDance nine months to sell TikTok to another company outside of China, plus a possible three-month extension if a sale is underway. The bill would also prevent the company from controlling the social media platform’s algorithm. President Joe Biden signed the bill today.

The legislation’s passage stems from widely publicized concerns from U.S. lawmakers that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to yield control of user data on TikTok’s more than 170 million U.S. users or influence the American public by promoting certain content on the app, according to the Associated Press.

“Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance, TikTok or any other individual company,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell told the AP. “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.”

Opponents of the bill say the Chinese government could easily obtain U.S. user data in other ways, like commercial data brokers that traffic personal information, and that a ban would violate First Amendment rights, according to the AP.

TikTok has consistently denied being a security threat and is preparing a lawsuit to block the legislation, according to Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of U.S. public policy.

“At the stage that the bill is signed, we will move to the courts for a legal challenge,” Beckerman wrote on Saturday in a company memo obtained by the AP. “This is the beginning, not the end of this long process,”

Even without TikTok’s legal opposition or the three-month extension, the earliest the ban could start is January 2025.

In the potential absence of TikTok, an additionally well-trodden digital music promotion and discovery tool that recently prompted Spotify to develop remix features that mirror the app, it’s possible companies like Meta and Google—respective owners of Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts—would step in to fill a market void.

Both Meta and Google heavily invested in their platforms in India following TikTok’s ban in the country four years ago, according to the AP.

In February, Universal Music Group accused TikTok of using intimidation tactics in negotiations over a new royalty licensing deal and removed its entire catalog of songs from the platform.

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Written by
Peter Volpe

Journalism student at The Ohio State University with a passion for culture and fat basslines.

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