US Senate Passes TikTok Bill: Divestment or Ban

With a vote of 79 in favor and 18 against, the United States Senate passed a bill for a potential nationwide TikTok ban. On Saturday, the bill was already adopted by the House of Representatives.

The bill provides TikTok with an ultimatum: unless ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, divests its assets, TikTok will be banned across the United States.

Once President Joe Biden signs the bill into law, ByteDance has about a year to get it done. Democratic Senator Ed Markey points out that a TikTok sale will likely be one of the most complicated and expensive transactions in history.

A TikTok Ban: What is it About?

TikTok has 170 million users across the United States. The potential ban is part of a larger battle between China and the United States about the collection of user data and cyberspace in general.

In the United States, lots of concerns exist about the privacy risks of the TikTok app. While TikTok has reassured American authorities repeatedly that no American user data is shared with the Chinese government, many continue to believe that TikTok is a spy app.

In 2020, then President Donald Trump failed to get a national ban on TikTok. With this new legislation, the grounds for a federal ban are a lot more substantial.

Should ByteDance fail to divest, the Apple App Store and Google Play Store will no longer legally be able to offer the TikTok app to their user base.

What Will Happen Next?

Once Joe Biden signs the bill, ByteDance has 270 days to sell or divest TikTok’s American operations, should they wish for the app to remain available in the United States. This time frame may be extended with a maximum of three months.

It’s unlikely that TikTok will simply accept the ultimatum. They will likely sue, as they did in Montana in November of last year. The Montana judge, then, found a state ban on TikTok to be unconstitutional and an infringement upon the right to freedom of expression.

Moroever, the American Civil Liberties Union warns that legislation banning TikTok in the United States will set a dangerous precedent. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has expressed concerns that the bill will provide “broad authority that could be abused by a future administration to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.”

On the other end of the spectrum, American apps such as WhatsApp and Threads are currently being banned in China out of similar national security concerns.

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