US passes bill that could ban TikTok unless ByteDance sells it

Just a week ago, reports emerged that a new bill was seeking to force ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a ban in the United States. The bill has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives (352-65 with strong bipartisan support).

Next stop, the Senate. Senator Rand Paul opposes the ban, so maybe there’s hope. But if the bill passes, President Joe Biden has said he will sign it into law (even though Biden’s reelection campaign joined TikTok a month ago).

As early as 2020, several U.S. companies were interested in acquiring TikTok’s global business, including Microsoft (TikTok is the global counterpart to Chinese social network Douyin). However, Chinese officials oppose such a sale.

But we’re back to pretty much the same situation – the bill, if signed into law, would require ByteDance to sell within six months. After this, the US company will be banned from hosting Bytedance apps in its app stores and from providing web hosting services. In other words, TikTok will be banned from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

This is far from over, and there are many legal hurdles to jump. For example, Montana banned TikTok last year, but a federal judge blocked the ban months later (and this wasn’t even the first time a ban had been overturned). Of course, ByteDance and Chinese officials will push for a different approach.

TikTok is huge, reaching 1 billion monthly users back in 2021, and last year was the first app to hit $10 billion in in-app spending. Make or lose a lot of money, depending on how the legal situation changes.

TikTok is not the only company under attack, by the way, the so-called Apps to Protect Americans from Control by Foreign Adversaries Act could also affect companies like WeChat (owned by tech giant Tencent).

Some domestic organizations in the United States also oppose the ban. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Future Fight also expressed opposition and wrote to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the matter. The EFF and ACLU even wrote a brief in support of overturning Montana’s ban.

“Instead of passing this excessive and misguided bill, Congress should prevent any company, regardless of where it is headquartered, from collecting vast amounts of detailed personal data about us and then providing that data to data brokers,” the EFF wrote in a blog post people, U.S. government agencies, and even foreign adversaries including China. We should not waste time arguing about a law that was repealed for silencing the speech of millions of Americans. Instead, Congress should pass enactment of comprehensive consumer data privacy Legislate to address the real problem of out-of-control privacy invasions.”

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