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US House Passes Bill To Ban TikTok

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(Reuters)- The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday that would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the U.S. assets of the short-video app used by about 170 million Americans or face a ban in the greatest threat to the app since the Trump administration.

The bill passed 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 posing security concerns. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday the Senate “will review the legislation when it comes over from the House.”

TikTok’s fate has become a major issue in Washington. Democratic and Republican lawmakers said their offices had received large volumes of calls from teen-age 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.

Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell said she wants legislation “that could hold up in court,” and is considering a separate bill but is not sure what her next step is.

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

“This is a critical national security issue. The Senate must take this up and pass it,” No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise said on social media platform X.

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Shortly after passage, a bipartisan pair of senators, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Marco Rubio, issued a joint statement saying they were encouraged by the bipartisan support for the bill and that they “look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law.”

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 favor of the bill, setting it up for a vote before the full House.

TIKTOK CEO GOES TO WASHINGTON

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

“This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it’s a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service,” a TikTok spokesperson said after the vote.

Biden said last week that he would sign the bill.

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

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“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.

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It is unclear whether China would approve any sale or if TikTok’s U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. judge blocked a Montana state ban on TikTok use after the company sued.


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