House Panel Unanimously Advances Bipartisan Bill To Ban TikTok

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Mar 07, 2024 - 11:40 PM

TikTok's days could be numbered in the United States, after the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously advanced a bill Thursday that would require TikTok's parent company ByteDance to divest the app or face a US ban.

Introduced on Tuesday by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the "Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act" bill is aimed at mitigating national security concerns over whether the Chinese government has access to the personal data to millions of Americans who use TikTok.

While Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) - ranking member on the committee raised concerns over "how rushed this process has been," the bill passed with no issue following a Thursday morning classified hearing prior to the vote.

TikTok has vehemently denied that it poses national security risks due to its ownership by a Chinese parent company, and said that the legislation comes to an unfair "predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States."

"The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country," said a spokesman for the company, The Hill reports.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, TikTok sent messages urging users to call Congress to oppose the bill. The notifications warned users to “stop a TikTok shutdown” and that Congress is “planning a total ban of TikTok.” 

Lawmakers in support of the bill have pushed back on that allegation since the bill allows TikTok to continue to be used in the U.S. if ByteDance divests it.  

Republicans on the committee also said the notification push to users highlighted their concerns about the app’s reach.

Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) accused the company of using its "influence and powers to force users to contact their representatives."

While the bill has widespread support within the committee, it still faces outside opposition (pushed by lobbyists) from groups such as the ACLU and Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, who say the decision could infringe on free speech.

"I’m just not confident that this will actually side-step the free speech concerns that have been raised with previous attempts to ban TikTok," said Sarah Krepps, director of the Tech Policy Institue at Cornell University, in a statement to The Hill.

"ByteDance has said they will not divest TikTok, so I have no reason to think they would exercise that option," Krepps continued. "So if they’re not going to divest, it leads back down the same road of a ban."

According to Krepps, a ban would likely be viewed as unconstitutional based on recent legal challenges to state TikTok bans.