US House passes fresh TikTok ban proposal to Senate

Sadly no push to end stupid TikTok dances, but ByteDance would have year to offload app stateside

Fresh US legislation to force the sale of TikTok locally was passed in Washington over the weekend after an earlier version stalled in the Senate.

The House of Representatives voted on Saturday to approve a substantial foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel, and the TikTok bill was one of a handful considered alongside it, passing by 360 to 58 votes.

Brandon Vigliarolo with Theresa Payton

Ex-White House CIO tells The Reg: TikTok ban may be diplomatic disaster


It is understood that the four TikTok ban bills enacted by the House will be bundled together as one package to forward to the Senate, making it more likely to be approved.

If approved by the Senate, the legislation would force ByteDance, the owner of the TikTok social media app, to sell off its US operations within a year or see the popular video sharing platform banned from the country - the first time the US government would have shut down the social media platform.

The Senate may vote on the consolidated bill as early as this week, and President Biden has previously indicated he would sign it.

Both Democrat and Republican representatives have expressed security concerns over the popularity of TikTok and its Chinese ownership, regarding it as a potential way for Beijing to exert influence on public opinion in America, as well as providing access to information on US users.

“This bill protects Americans and especially America’s children from the malign influence of Chinese propaganda on the app TikTok. This app is a spy balloon in Americans’ phones,” Texas Republican and bill author Michael McCauln said.

An earlier TikTok bill passed by the House of Representatives in March had reportedly stalled in the Senate, partly because reservations were expressed there about whether a ban on the app would represent an attack on the free speech of American citizens.

That legislation had also given TikTok only a six-month window in which to comply with the sale or ban ruling, whereas the new bill allows for 270 days, and gives the President authority to issue a one-time extension of 90 days.

ByteDance reportedly said it plans to challenge the move in court, which marks a further escalation in the US-China tech dispute. We asked TikTok's parent for its reaction to this latest development, but the company was not immediately available to respond.

"It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans," TikTok said in a statement sent to Reuters.

Bloomberg reports that Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, told US colleagues in a memo that it would move to the courts for a legal challenge if the bill is passed.

The law would be “a clear violation” of the First Amendment rights of TikTok’s millions of America users, Beckerman said, and claimed it would have “devastating consequences” for the many small businesses that used the platform to reach customers. “This is the beginning, not the end of this long process,” he added.

Another barrier to TikTok being divested in America could be the Chinese authorities, as The Register previously reported. It is understood that an export control law could allow the government to prevent the sale of the company’s US operations. If that were to happen, the US government might be forced to implement a ban.

A ban would prove controversial. Last month, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak criticized the US government for making a target of TikTok, accusing it of hypocrisy in singling out one social media platform rather than applying the same rules to all.

It should, however, also be remembered that China has already all but banned any non-native social networks from operating in its own country. ®

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