Senate passes bill to ban TikTok in US if Chinese owner ByteDance doesn’t sell it

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law, requiring TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell it within the next nine months to a year or face the app being banned from the US

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 24 April 2024 12:44 BST
Related: Tiktok security issues exposed app’s users to hackers

The Senate has passed a bill to ban TikTok in the US if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, doesn’t sell it within the next nine months to a year.

The bill, which President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law, stemmed from concerns among lawmakers about potential data access and surveillance by China through the app. It had already passed the House of Representatives over the weekend and the president has alreayd indicated that he will sign it into law when it lands on his desk.

“For years we have allowed the Chinese Communist Party to control one of the most popular apps in America that was dangerously shortsighted,” Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said following the bill’s passage.

“A new law is going to require its Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good move for America.”

Now, ByteDance has nine months to sell the company, with the possibility of a three-month extension if a sale is under way.

For the 170 million American users of the app, a ban would not automatically remove TikTok from their cellphones.

Instead, the app would be unavailable on Apple and Google’s app stores and so users won’t be able to download it and TikTok won’t be able to send updates or fixes.

TikTok has told its employees that it will fight attempts to ban the app in the US.

The company’s head of public policy Michael Beckerman sent a memo to staff saying the bill was a “clear violation of the First Amendment rights of TikTok’s 170 million American users”.

“We’ll continue to fight,” Mr Beckerman added. “This is the beginning, not the end of this long process.”

If ByteDance fails to divest TikTok, it could face severe restrictions impacting app stores and web hosting services.

Some senators, however, expressed concern about the potential abuse of authority and infringement on free speech by banning the app.

Democratic Senator Ed Markey said it would be hard, if not impossible, for ByteDance to divest by early 2025, according to Reuters.

He added that a sale would be one of the most complicated and expensive transactions in history, requiring months if not years of due diligence.

The TikTok Inc building is seen in Culver City, California, on 17 March 2023
The TikTok Inc building is seen in Culver City, California, on 17 March 2023 (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The company has argued that the bill would “trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24bn to the US economy, annually”.

During Donald Trump’s presidency, there was a push to compel ByteDance to sell its American operations to a US company. Microsoft engaged in discussions for the app’s acquisition in August 2020, but a deal was not reached.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella later described the talks over the acquisition of TikTok as the “strangest thing” he had ever worked on.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a campaign on Monday urging people to “tell Congress to stop the TikTok ban”. “Instead of giving the president the power to ban entire social media platforms based on their country of origin, our representatives should focus on what matters – protecting our data no matter who is collecting it,” a new page on its website states.

Tik Tok “is used by hundreds of millions of people to express themselves online, and is an instrumental tool for community building and holding those in power accountable,” the foundation said. “This bill must be stopped.”

Additional reporting by agencies

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in