A TikTok ban in the US? Not so fast, there's a long way to go.

There are many complications before TikTok's future is resolved.

Tan Min-Wei | March 14, 2024, 08:07 PM


The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on Mar. 13 that may result in social media video platform TikTok being banned in the U.S.

The usually fractious U.S. legislature came together to overwhelmingly support the bill, passing it by 352 ayes to 65 noes.

The bill which the House of Representatives passed is not an out-and-out ban, but instead gives TikTok's parent company, China-based ByteDance, about six months to sell TikTok or be delisted from U.S. online store platforms.

Before that countdown starts, the bill will need to be approved by the U.S. senate before being signed into law by the U.S. President, currently Joe Biden.

But what obstacles still remain before that happens?

Fast pass

The bill passed through the various stages of approval with remarkable speed, with Polygon noting that it took two days to pass through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and even managed to pass under “fast-track” rules, which would have required a two-thirds majority to pass.

Committee approval is often a drawn out process, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) called the bill “incredibly rushed” noting that it had gone from “committee to vote” in only four days.

She further said that there were significant antitrust and privacy concerns, and that the national security concerns of the vote should be “laid out to the public”.

Despite her opposition, the bill passed through the house with a nearly six to one majority, but it faces its most significant hurdle in the Senate.

Thorough Review

According to the Associated Press, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said that he will consult with relevant committee chairs to determine the bill's path.

The AP also reported that some senators had said that the bill would go through a “thorough review”, implying that the bill would not pass through the Senate as quickly as it did the House.

Only if and when the bill passes both the House and Senate can it be signed into law by the President.

Joe Biden has said that should the bill come before him, he would sign it rather than vetoing it, but in this matter timing is important.

Trump ban?

The U.S. is holding a critical general election in November 2024, with all of the House and a third of the senate up for re-election.

Most importantly, the position of president is also facing a tightly contested fight between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.

The bill would need to pass before November in order to guarantee its passage, because should Trump be re-elected it is less certain what might happen to it.

Trump has previously, albeit unsuccessfully, tried to ban TikTok once before, also attempting to force ByteDance to sell the platform to a U.S. based company, with Microsoft and Oracle being the main companies said to be involved.

While he was ultimately unsuccessful in forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok, the app initiated what it called “Project Texas”, a move to route its user’s information through servers in the U.S., instead of through China.

But since then Trump has changed his tune, with the SCMP reporting that Trump believed that banning TikTok would unfairly benefit Meta-controlled Facebook.

On Mar. 11, CNN reported that Trump had described Facebook as “a true enemy of the people”, likely due to Meta’s decision to ban him following accusations that he was involved in the Jan. 6 riot in Washington D.C.

However, Meta restored Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts in early 2023.

Precented moves

TikTok is wildly popular in the U.S. , with over 170 million users in the country.

Axios reports that many TikTok creators have protested the proposed ban, saying that their livelihoods were at stake.

Axios also noted the uncertain impact of banning such a popular platform during an election year.

TikTok has proven to be a critical campaign tool during several recent elections, including the 2022 Malaysian and 2024 Indonesian elections.

Concerns about China's control of social media platforms and the backend data behind it is not new.

In 2016, China-based Beijing Kunlun Tech bought Grindr, a dating app for homosexual men.

However, concerns over China's access to personal information eventually resulted in Beijing Kunlun Tech being forced to sell Grindr to a U.S.-based company.

Representative Sean Casten (D-Illinois) characterised the sale as protecting the privacy of the app’s users, implying that a TikTok sale would do the same.

But selling TikTok is not straightforward, as the failed sales to Microsoft and Oracle showed.


The Biden Administration has taken to strictly enforcing antitrust regulations against Big Tech firms in order to prevent them from becoming too large and influential.

These are the same tech firms that are likely to be wealthy and interested enough to purchase TikTok, with several, such as Meta and Google parent company Alphabet already having competing platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.

It is also not clear whether the bill would stand up to legal scrutiny, as this is not the first time that a U.S. legislature has attempted to “ban” TikTok, with the state of Montana attempting to do so in 2023 but being blocked by a U.S. judge.

Rock and a hard place

But a potential TikTok sale faces troubles in more than just the U.S., with the New York Times reporting that China has rejected concerns about TikTok’s risk to U.S. national security.

China’s spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wang Wenbin said that the U.S. has “never found any evidence of TikTok posing a threat”, accusing it of “resorting to hegemonic moves” after failing in “fair competition”.

The previously mentioned attempts to buy TikTok in 2020 were hampered by China imposing export control rules that covered, among other things, TikTok’s recommendation algorithm.

This means that TikTok and any potential buyers face two diametrically opposed sets of national security concerns, from two of the world's most powerful countries.

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Top image via Joe Biden/Facebook & Nik/Unsplash