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‘If They Pass It, I’ll Sign It’: Biden Backs Bill to Ban TikTok

The US Justice Department also said the bill forcing ByteDance to divest TikTok would put the government in a stronger legal position than if the app was simply banned

A 3D printed Tik Tok logo
The TikTok logo is seen in front of the US flag. Photo: Reuters


China’s Bytedance came a step closer to potentially losing billions of users of its short video app TikTok on Friday, with US President Joe Biden backing a crackdown on the firm.

Lawmakers in the US are pushing a bill in Congress that would give ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok or face a ban and the House of Representatives will vote on the proposal next week.

“If they pass it, I’ll sign it,” Biden, told reporters, a day after a house panel voted 50-0 to approve a bill.


Also on AF: TikTok, US Lawmakers in War of Words as Bill to Ban App Gets Fuel


The vote triggered a war of words between TikTok and US lawmakers, with the latter claiming the legislation had “a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States.”

On the other hand, representatives Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi — lawmakers who introduced the legislation earlier in the week — argued the bill was not a ban, but a push to separate the app used by 170 million Americans from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Think of this as a surgery designed to remove the tumour and thereby save the patient in the process,” Gallagher said.



Trump opposed to the bill

Meanwhile, TikTok found an unlikely supporter — Donald Trump, who first pushed to ban the app in 2020, while he was US President.

At the time, Trump said in an executive order that TikTok data collection “threatens to allow the CCP access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

But on Friday, Trump, who is seeking a return to the White House in the November election, expressed objections to banning TikTok. “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook … will double their business,” he said, adding that he did not want Facebook “doing better.”

Facebook parent Meta Platforms previously revoked Trump’s access to Facebook and Instagram after removing two of his posts during the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot. His accounts were reinstated in February 2023.

US Senator Rand Paul, who previously blocked attempts to fast-track a TikTok ban, also supported Trump’s statement. “If Congress bans TikTok, they will be acting just like the Chinese communists who have also banned TikTok … Why not just defend the first amendment?” he wrote on X.

The US House of Representatives will likely vote on the bill on Tuesday or Wednesday. At least two-thirds of members will need to vote “yes” for the legislation to win approval.

The bill will then head to vote in the Senate, where it faces an uncertain outcome as some lawmakers say they want changes to the legislation.


‘Divestment better than ban’

The US Justice Department also voiced support for the bill saying forcing ByteDance to divest TikTok would put the Biden Administration in a stronger legal position than if the app was simply banned.

Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said a ban on TikTok would be unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights.



The Justice Department gave a classified briefing to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday before the panel voted 50-0 in favour of the divestment bill.

The briefing included the one-page unclassified document seen by Reuters, which said TikTok poses “key national security concerns” because it “collects tremendous amounts of sensitive data.” TikTok’s Chinese ownership puts its “American users at risk,” the DoJ added.

The document, titled “Threat Posed by TikTok,” said any bill needs to separate the company from Beijing and its Chinese-based parent and that a divestment has key advantages over a ban.

Existing laws “have limits that make it challenging to effectuate that separation and fully address the national security risks,” the Justice Department document said.

“An orderly divestment of TikTok from (China) would give Americans secure ownership of their data, including posts, photos and videos while minimising the disruption to the over 100 million TikTok accounts in the United States,” the document said.

“Working through ByteDance, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) could use TikTok to access data on millions of US users and control the software on millions of US devices,” it added.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers cited the briefing as a key reason members supported the divestment bill on Thursday.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena


Also read:

Suspicion And Mistrust Continuing to Shadow TikTok

TikTok Hit With $370m EU Fine Over Children’s Data Breaches

TikTok to Spend Billions in Southeast Asia, Focus on E-Commerce

US and Canada Order TikTok Cut From All Government Phones

China’s TikTok Sues Montana Over Statewide Ban

TikTok CEO to Tell US Lawmakers: ‘We’ve Never Shared Data’


Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at [email protected]


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