TikTok (File)

U.S. Lawmakers Target Divestiture Of TikTok From ByteDance Or Risk Ban

TikTok (File)
TikTok (File)

TikTok, the popular video-sharing platform owned by ByteDance, is facing mounting scrutiny and regulatory challenges. Lawmakers in Washington have raised concerns about user data privacy, national security, and potential censorship on the platform.

More than a dozen lawmakers have introduced the bill, which is scheduled for a first vote on Thursday. Among them are Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat, and Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives’ select China committee.

“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.”

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This move would potentially allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States under new ownership.

Lawmakers argue that TikTok’s Chinese ownership could allow the Chinese government to access and exploit user data. These concerns have led to calls for more stringent regulations or even a ban on the platform.

If the bill passes, ByteDance will have 165 days to either divest the app or app stores run by Apple, Google, and other companies to be prohibited from offering the TikTok app for download or from hosting apps that ByteDance controls.

However, the bill does not authorize any enforcement action against individual users of an affected app.

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

The Energy and Commerce Committee will consider and vote on the bill at a hearing on Thursday. It would need companion legislation in the Senate.

Rep. 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.

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“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 described the bill as “an important and welcome step,” adding that the Biden administration would collaborate with Congress “to further strengthen this legislation and put it on the strongest possible legal footing.”

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