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US House Passes Bill that Could Lead to TikTok Ban; Battle Shifts to Senate

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on March 14, 2024, 09:25:00

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US, TikTok ban, ByteDance, new bill, user data,

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill targeting TikTok's ownership, with bipartisan support.

The legislation prohibits app stores from distributing TikTok unless its Chinese parent company relinquishes control of the platform. Despite opposition from former President Donald Trump, the bill gained traction, backed by concerns raised by US security officials regarding national security risks associated with Chinese ownership of TikTok.

Lawmakers dismissed TikTok's lobbying efforts, including an in-app campaign urging users to oppose the bill. Notably, even after Trump's reversal on the issue, 197 Republicans supported the bill. The White House emphasised its stance, clarifying that it seeks to address ownership concerns rather than banning the app outright.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan highlighted the central issue of ownership, emphasising the choice between American or Chinese control over TikTok and its user data. The House's strong vote sets the stage for Senate consideration, potentially increasing pressure on senators to address the matter.

However, challenges remain, particularly regarding concerns over free speech raised by Senator Rand Paul. TikTok's supporters argue that the rights of its millions of American users are at stake. Senate committees, including the commerce committee chaired by Democrat Maria Cantwell, are scrutinising the bill to ensure it aligns with constitutional principles while addressing national security threats.

The legislation gives ByteDance a 180-day deadline to divest TikTok to avoid being removed from app stores. Introduced by Representatives Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, the bill gained unanimous approval from the House energy and commerce committee.

TikTok's lobbyist, Michael Beckerman, criticised the bill's expedited process, citing constitutional concerns and refuting claims of Chinese government influence over the platform. US officials worry about ByteDance's potential compliance with Chinese demands under national security laws, including FBI director Christopher Wray, who testified that ByteDance might be compelled to provide user data to Beijing upon request.

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