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Home / News / US votes to force ByteDance to divest TikTok or face ban

US votes to force ByteDance to divest TikTok or face ban


The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill today that would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the US assets of the short-video app used by about 170 million Americans or face a ban.

The bill passed by a vote of 352-65, with bipartisan support, but it faces a more uncertain path in the Senate where some favor a different approach to regulating foreign-owned apps that could pose security concerns.

TikTok’s fate has become a major issue in Washington. Democratic and Republican lawmakers said their offices had received large volumes of calls from teenaged TikTok users who oppose the legislation, with the volume of complaints at times exceeding the number of calls seeking a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The measure is also the latest in a series of moves in Washington to respond to US national security concerns about China, from connected vehicles to advanced artificial intelligence chips to cranes at US ports.

The vote comes just over a week since the bill was proposed following one public hearing with little debate, and after action in Congress had stalled for more than a year.

Last month, President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign joined TikTok, raising hopes among TikTok officials that legislation was unlikely this year.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week voted 50-0 in favour of the bill, setting it up for a vote before the full House.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will visit Capitol Hill today on a previously scheduled trip to talk to senators, a source briefed on the matter said.

“This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States,” the company said before the vote.

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression,” it added.

Biden said last week that he would sign the bill.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said this week the goal was ending Chinese ownership, not banning TikTok.

“Do we want TikTok, as a platform, to be owned by an American company or owned by China? Do we want the data from TikTok – children’s data, adults’ data – to be going, to be staying here in America or going to China?” he said.

It is unclear whether China would approve any sale or if TikTok’s US assets could be divested in six months.

If ByteDance failed to do so, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet’s Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat but was blocked by the courts. In recent days he had raised concerns about a ban.

It remains unclear if Tencent’s WeChat or other high-profile Chinese-owned apps could face a ban under the legislation.

Any forced TikTok divestment from the US would almost certainly face legal challenges, which the company would need to file within 165 days of the bill being signed by the president.

In November, a US judge blocked a Montana state ban on TikTok use after the company sued.


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