Tech

The Bill That Could Get TikTok Banned in the US, Explained

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The House is scheduled to vote on Wednesday morning on a polarizing bill that could result in TikTok becoming banned in the U.S. The vote was scheduled after the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., passed the bipartisan bill last week that could force ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to sell the video-sharing platform or face a ban in the United States. 

The bill was first introduced in the House on Tuesday, Mar. 5,  by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and is referred to as the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.” Pressure to regulate TikTok has been mounting in the last year since FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that the app is a tool of the Chinese government and “screams out with national security concerns.” 

Lawmakers worry that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could use TikTok as a tool to help influence the democratic processes of the U.S., either by showing and promoting content that supports its agendas or collecting data on its American users. TikTok has denied having ties to the CCP.

This bill comes at an interesting time. Last month, President Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign joined TikTok in an apparent attempt to connect with younger voters. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.

What does the bill propose?

If the bill is passed, it would make it possible for the President to identify and designate social media platforms under the control of countries considered adversarial to the U.S. as national security threats. If a platform is deemed a national security threat, it would be banned from app stores and web hosting services unless it cuts all ties with the foreign adversarial country within 180 days.

While the bill does not mention TikTok directly, congressmen Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi focused heavily on TikTok in their statements about the legislation.

“This is my message to TikTok: Break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” said Chairman Gallagher in a press release regarding the bill. 

“So long as it is owned by ByteDance and thus required to collaborate with the CCP, TikTok poses critical threats to our national security,” added Rep. Krishnamoorthi.

How far along is the bill in Congress?

Bills are typically debated and voted on first in smaller committees before moving up to be voted on by the entire chamber. Last week, the bill passed its first round of voting in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes law. 

It will next be debated on the House floor on Wednesday, where all members of the House have an opportunity to vote. It will require a two-thirds majority in order to pass, according to Axios

If the bill is passed in the house, it will then be introduced to the Senate, where it will go through a similar process of voting. If the bill is passed by both the House and the Senate, it will then be presented to President Biden, who will have the opportunity to sign or veto the bill.

What could happen if the bill is passed?

If the bill is passed, it is likely that the President would designate TikTok as a national security threat, requiring ByteDance to either sell the platform within 180 days or face a ban.  

The Biden administration has signaled support for the bill, though is yet to officially endorse it. A National Security Spokesperson said, per NBC news, that the White House had worked with lawmakers in both parties to “address the threat of technology services operating in the United States.” 

How has TikTok responded?

TikTok has responded by notifying all of its users with an advertisement urging them to call their congressional representatives to express their discontent with the legislation.

“Congress is planning a total ban of TikTok,” the app informs users. “This will damage millions of businesses, destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country, and deny artists an audience.”  

Shou Zi Chew, the current CEO of TikTok, is expected to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week to argue against the legislation. 

TikTok has also found an unlikely ally in former president Donald Trump, who has changed his stance regarding the app. “Without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people,” Trump said in an interview with CNBC. Trump had previously pushed to get the app banned in the U.S. during the last year of his presidency. 

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