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US House Panel Set to Consider New Bill That Could Ban TikTok

New bill put to Congress would force Chinese tech giant ByteDance to sell its popular short-video app within 165 days or face a US ban, but it likely faces a legal challenge

TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration
(Reuters image from 2022).


A bipartisan group of US lawmakers have submitted a bill to the US Congress that would force Chinese-based tech giant ByteDance to sell its popular short-video app TikTok or face a US ban.

Sponsors of the bill, which will face a vote from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, say it is motivated by national security concerns. However, the bill is likely to face opposition from both in and outside Capitol Hill.

Indeed, the American Civil Liberties Union has already said the bill is unconstitutional.


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A bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced the legislation on Tuesday to give ByteDance about six months to divest TikTok.

The bill is the first big legislative move in nearly a year toward banning or forcing ByteDance to divest the app, after Senate legislation to ban it stalled in Congress last year in the face of heavy lobbying by TikTok.

Mike Gallagher, the (outgoing) Republican chair of the House of Representatives’ select China committee and Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat on the panel, are among more than a dozen lawmakers introducing the measure, which is expected to see an initial vote on Thursday.

“This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” Gallagher said. “America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States.”


No action against 170m American users

The bill would give ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok, which is used by more than 170 million Americans, or make it unlawful for app stores run by Apple, Google and others to offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to apps controlled by ByteDance.

The bill would not authorize any enforcement against individual users of an affected app, however.

“This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it,” a company spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”

A White House National Security Council spokesperson called the bill “an important and welcome step” adding that the Biden administration would work with Congress “to further strengthen this legislation and put it on the strongest possible legal footing.”

The administration has worked with lawmakers from both parties to counter threats of tech services operating in the United States that pose risks to Americans’ sensitive data and broader national security, the official added.

TikTok says it has not, and would not, share US user data with the Chinese government. But there is considerable scepticism about that claim.


‘Cheap points in an election year’

The American Civil Liberties Union called the bill unconstitutional, saying lawmakers were “once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year.”

“We’re deeply disappointed that our leaders are once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the ACLU.

The group cited a November ruling from a US judge that blocked Montana’s state ban on free speech grounds.

The bill, which would required companion legislation in the Senate, will be considered at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday for a vote.

Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs that committee, said the bill would “prevent foreign adversaries, such as China, from surveilling and manipulating the American people” via online applications such as TikTok.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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