US lawmakers pass bill that could completely ban TikTok in 1 year

ByteDance given 1 year instead of 6 months to sell TikTok.

Tan Min-Wei | April 21, 2024, 04:23 PM



The United States House of Representatives has passed a bill giving ByteDance up one year to divest TikTok or face a complete ban in the country.

Divest or die

The updated divest-or-get-banned bill that got passed on Apr. 20 stated that TikTok's parent company ByteDance has one year to carry out its divestment.

The previous bill called for TikTok to be sold within six months.

TikTok is a massively popular social media platform for video content that serves more than 170 million Americans, and an estimated over 1 billion monthly users worldwide.

Chinese govt can access data?

According to Bloomberg, lawmakers in the U.S. have long been concerned about TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, and accusing it of handing over sensitive information to the Chinese government, with the implication that it is being used in influence operations.

TikTok has also been a cause of concern in other countries, with India and Nepal banning its use, and Australia banning it from the phones of government employees.

This is the latest attempt to try to separate TikTok from China-based ByteDance.

The previous, but unsuccessful, attempt came during the administration of Donald Trump.

According to The Guardian, the extension of the divestiture time frame came at the urging of the head of the U.S. Senates' Commerce Committee Chair, Maria Cantwell.

She said the extended time frame would ensure that there's enough time for a new buyer to get a deal done.

Interference pattern

The Guardian also reported that the nature of concern regarding TikTok was that the Chinese government could use its influence over ByteDance to collect user data, and censor content that is critical of itself.

It quoted Avril Hines, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, who said China might use TikTok to influence the U.S.'s 2024 presidential election.

The initial six-month time frame would have meant that TikTok would be banned by the 2024 presidential election, but this would no longer be the case.

This new set of legislation was passed by an overwhelming majority, 360 to 58, and is being fast tracked alongside an aid package for Ukraine and Israel.

But before it becomes law, it will have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, as well as being approved by the incumbent president Joe Biden.

Biden had earlier said that if such a bill were to be put before him, he would sign it, indicating that he would not hold up the passage of the bill.

Progressive opposition

However, the bill is not universally approved of, with Bloomberg reporting that there were senators, such as Rand Paul of Kentucky, who might attempt to prevent the passage of the TikTok portion of the bill.

There was also opposition from inside the House of Representatives, with several progressive legislators decrying the speed the bill was crafted, as well as passed.

Several said, according to Politico, that the bill was being steamrolled, without listening to stakeholders, including people who depended on TikTok for their livelihood.

Opposition has also come from other members of the tech community, with CEO of Twitter/ X Elon Musk, saying that the ban was contrary to freedom of speech and expression, as reported by The Hill.

The Washington Post also reported that TikTok opposed the potential ban, saying that it was an affront to free speech, and denied that the company was beholden to China's government.

TikTok CEO Singaporean Shou Chew Zi has repeatedly denied before the House of representatives that TikTok was in any way giving information to China's government.

Following the bill’s passage, TikTok said: “It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans,”

Before the vote to pass the bill, TikTok expressed its displeasure at the U.S.’s ability to “shutter a platform" that contributes US$24 billion to the U.S. economy annually.

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Top image by Solen Feyissa and Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash