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TikTok Faces US Ban as Bill Set to Be Signed by Biden

The US Senate has passed a bill that could result in TikTok being banned in America due to national security concerns.

Under the legislation, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has nine months to divest its stake, or the app will be prohibited in the United States.

The bill will now be forwarded to US President Joe Biden, who has indicated his intention to sign it into law promptly upon its arrival at his desk.

TikTok has said that it does not currently have an immediate response to this development. Previously, ByteDance stated its opposition to any attempt to compel it to sell TikTok.

“This is significant,” remarked Doug Calidas, a technology expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, speaking to the BBC. “In a matter of weeks, they managed to pass legislation through both chambers, which is a rare occurrence. It’s remarkable to see such swift action on a matter of public concern.”

If the US succeeds in pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok, any transaction would still require approval from Chinese authorities. However, China has pledged to resist such actions.

The process of blocking the app in the US could take several years, as legal challenges from ByteDance, likely escalating to the Supreme Court, would prolong the process.

The legislation grants the company nine months to divest TikTok, with an additional three-month grace period.

Additionally, there is the issue of identifying potential buyers capable of operating the platform, with the acquisition likely involving tens of billions of dollars, limiting the pool of potential purchasers.

Failure to sell within the designated timeframe could lead to the app’s prohibition in the country. The US cites concerns that TikTok could be exploited for espionage or propaganda purposes.

While TikTok collects similar data to other apps, the US is apprehensive about this data potentially falling into the hands of the Chinese government, a claim consistently refuted by the company.

US lawmakers may also face public backlash, as TikTok boasts over 170 million users nationwide.

Aid for Ukraine

The measure was part of a package of four bills, including military aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and other US partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

The bill enjoyed broad support from lawmakers, with 79 Senators voting in favor and 18 against.

“For years, we’ve allowed the Chinese Communist Party to control one of America’s most popular apps, which was dangerously short-sighted,” remarked Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “This new law will compel its Chinese owner to divest the app. It’s a positive step for America,” he added.

TikTok has raised civil liberties concerns in its defense.

Last week, the social media company argued that the bill would “undermine the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the US economy annually.”

TikTok maintains that ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country.” Additionally, ByteDance asserts that it is not a Chinese firm, pointing to global investment firms that own 60% of the company.

Its CEO, Shou Zi Chew, has stated that the company will continue to utilize “legal rights” to safeguard the platform.

Mr. Shou has faced questioning from Congress twice in less than a year, downplaying the app’s ties to Chinese authorities, both at the corporate and personal level.

TikTok has undertaken significant efforts to mobilize support against the potential ban, including a substantial lobbying campaign.

The platform has also urged TikTok users and creators to express opposition to the bill.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told the BBC that an extended legal battle is probable, potentially lasting around two years.

He added that if a buyer for ByteDance’s stake is not secured within the nine-month period, it could further delay any action against TikTok in the US.

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TikTok Faces US Ban as Bill Set to Be Signed by Biden