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Brian Coney
24 April 2024, 12:26

US Senate passes bill to ban TikTok if parent company doesn’t sell

ByteDance has a one-year deadline to divest TikTok to a US-based entity


The US Senate has approved a bill aimed at compelling ByteDance, the China-based parent company of TikTok, to sell the popular app within a year or face a ban from app stores.

The legislation, part of a broader foreign aid package, passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. US President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.

If signed, the new law will mean that ByteDance has a one-year deadline to divest TikTok to a US-based entity. Failure to do so will result in TikTok's removal from app stores in the United States.

The bill's passage signals a significant escalation in the ongoing scrutiny of TikTok's ownership and operations within the US.

The Guardian reports that Michael Beckerman, TikTok's head of public policy for the Americas, expressed the company's intention to challenge the legislation in court, citing concerns over First Amendment rights.

Beckerman said, "At the stage that the bill is signed, we will move to the courts for a legal challenge," emphasising TikTok's commitment to defending the rights of its 170 million American users.

According to a report by Sky News, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said the move to force TikTok's sale was not aimed at "punishing" ByteDance, TikTok, or other companies."Congress is acting to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, maligned operations, harming vulnerable Americans, our servicemen and women, and our U.S government personnel," she said.

The bill argues that it addresses longstanding national security concerns regarding TikTok's ties to the Chinese government. Lawmakers have raised fears that ByteDance could potentially access sensitive user data or censor content at the behest of Chinese authorities. Despite TikTok's assurances, these concerns have fueled calls for stricter regulation or outright bans on the platform.

The legislative action follows years of political wrangling over TikTok's presence in the United States.

Former President Donald Trump previously sought to ban the app in 2020, citing similar national security concerns, although his efforts were ultimately thwarted. But the passage of this bill underscores a bipartisan consensus on the need for greater oversight of TikTok and other Chinese-owned tech platforms operating in the US.

Last October, it was revealed that 64% of TikTok content removal referrals from London’s Metropolitan Police during the 2022/23 financial year were related to UK drill music.