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New House Bill Targets TikTok

Bipartisan effort would force China to sell TikTok within 6 months, or see the popular yet controversial app banned from the US
Published: March 6, 2024
TikTok House bill
U.S. flag and TikTok logo are seen in this illustration taken June 2, 2023. (Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

A group of U.S. congressmembers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have introduced legislation to give China’s ByteDance about six months to divest popular video app TikTok or have it be banned in the U.S.

Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives’ select China committee and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat, are among more than a dozen lawmakers who introduced the measure on Wednesday, March 6.

Lawmakers and concerned citizens have long criticized TikTok, which is a clone of the original Chinese platform Douyin, as being a conduit for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to conduct mass espionage on Americans, as well as spread propaganda and disinformation among its hundreds of millions of users.

“This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” Gallagher said. “America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States.”

The bill, titled “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” is the first significant legislative move in nearly a year toward banning or forcing ByteDance to divest the popular app, after senate legislation to ban it stalled in Congress last year in the face of heavy lobbying by TikTok.

TikTok is not available in mainland China, where the CCP bans most other social media not controlled by the Party.


The bill would give ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok, which is used by more than 170 million Americans, or make it unlawful for app stores run by Apple, Google and others to offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to apps controlled by ByteDance.

The bill would not authorize any enforcement against individual users of an affected app, however.

“This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it,” a company spokesperson said on Tuesday.

TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken August 22, 2022. (Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

“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 bill would give the president new powers to designate apps of concern posing national security risks and subject them to the risk of bans or curbs unless ownership was divested.

It would cover apps with more than a million annual active users and under control of a foreign adversary entity, the bill says.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson called the bill “an important and welcome step” adding that the Biden administration would work with Congress “to further strengthen this legislation and put it on the strongest possible legal footing.”

The administration has worked with lawmakers from both parties to counter threats of tech services operating in the United States that pose risks to Americans’ sensitive data and broader national security, the official added.

National security concerns

TikTok has claimed it has not, and would not, share U.S. user data with the Chinese government.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the bill unconstitutional, saying lawmakers were “once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year.”

In order to become law, the bill would require companion legislation in the Senate and be voted on by its 100 members.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill would “prevent foreign adversaries, such as China, from surveilling and manipulating the American people” via online applications such as TikTok.

The Committee was slated to consider the TikTok bill on March 7.

Various U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. military, have restricted or banned use of TikTok by personnel, citing national security concerns. Late in 2022, Congress barred federal employees from using it on government devices. However, Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign has joined TikTok.

The new bill aims at bolstering the legal authority to address TikTok concerns. U.S. courts blocked an effort by previous President Donald Trump to ban TikTok in 2020.

Late in November, a U.S. judge blocked Montana’s first-of-its kind state ban on TikTok, saying it violated users’ free speech rights.

Legislation by Congress in 2023 to curtail or ban TikTok sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner and more than two dozen others would have given new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats, but was never voted on.

That bill, known as the RESTRICT Act, was criticized for being overly vague and as opening the door to broad and undesirable government restrictions of Americans’ rights to free speech online.

Also last year, the U.S. Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in March 2023 demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their shares, or face the possibility of the app being banned, Reuters and other news providers reported, but the administration has taken no action.

Reuters contributed to this report.