US lawmakers introduce bill demanding ByteDance to divest TikTok or face ban

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A bipartisan bill introduced by lawmakers in the US House will force China-based ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to divest the short-form video app or face a ban on the platform in the United States, The Hill reported. US Representatives – Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, introduced the bill on Tuesday. It is the latest effort to impose a ban on TikTok over concerns about potential national security threats posed by ByteDance.

The “Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” defines ByteDance and TikTok as foreign adversary-controlled applications. The bill also creates a broader framework that would enable the US President to designate other foreign adversary-controlled applications. On Tuesday, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee said it will consider the bill at a Thursday markup, according to The Hill report.

In a statement on Tuesday, US Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the Energy and Commerce panel, said, “I commend Select Committee on the CCP Chair Mike Gallagher and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi for their leadership on this bipartisan bill and look forward to advancing the bill this week.” Under the scope of the bill, foreign adversaries include China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

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The bill will give more than five months to ByteDance after the law goes into effect to divest TikTok. If ByteDance does not divest from TikTok, it would become illegal to distribute it through an app store or web hosting platform in the US. The bill has over 12 bipartisan sponsors, according to a committee aide. The aid, however, did not mention the details regarding the specific sponsors, according to The Hill report.

Gallager and Krishnamoorhti’s proposal tries to avert running into concerns that emerged as roadblocks to other bills, on the basis of description of the committee aides’. However, there are still concerns with banning the app due to its popularity with US users and concerns based on the loopholes users could use to gain access to TikTok even if it were effectively banned. Speaking to The Hill, TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek called the bill an “outright ban” of TikTok. He stressed that this legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans.

“This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it. This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs,” The Hill quoted Alex Haurek as saying. In 2023, a Republican backed bill tried to impose an outright ban on TikTok. However, the ban faced a pushback from Democratic lawmakers who stressed that the effort was rushed and could hinder free speech rights.