US House passes bill requiring ByteDance to divest assets or face TikTok’s ban

The bill’s future in the Senate is uncertain as some Democrats have concerns about freedom of speech.

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The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would compel TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to divest the app’s US assets within approximately six months or face a ban, marking the most significant threat to the app since the Trump administration. The bipartisan bill, approved with a vote of 352-65, awaits a more uncertain path in the Senate, where discussions about alternative approaches to regulating foreign-owned apps are ongoing. The bill’s passage underscores growing national security concerns in Washington regarding China’s influence across various sectors.

The fate of TikTok, which boasts approximately 170 million American users, has become a focal point in Washington, with lawmakers inundated by calls from TikTok users opposing the legislation. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew warned of dire consequences if the bill becomes law, anticipating a ban that would significantly impact creators and small businesses. Despite political divisions, the prevailing sentiment increasingly supports the bill amid heightened scrutiny of Chinese-owned tech platforms operating in the US.

However, prominent Democrats, including House Democratic Whip Kathleen Clark and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have raised concerns about the bill’s antitrust and privacy implications. Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell seeks legislation capable of withstanding legal scrutiny and contemplates alternative approaches. The bill’s swift passage contrasts with prolonged congressional inaction, indicating a shift in attitude towards TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps.

Amid uncertainties regarding a potential sale and Chinese regulatory approval, the bill raises questions about the future of TikTok in the US and the broader implications for other Chinese-owned platforms like WeChat. Legal challenges and constitutional concerns about free speech further complicate the bill’s implementation, as seen in previous court rulings blocking state-level attempts to ban TikTok.