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TikTok Divesting Or Ban Bill Passed By US Senate; Biden Will Sign It Into Law

TikTok Divesting Or Ban Bill Passed By US Senate; Biden Will Sign It Into Law
Late on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation that would outlaw TikTok in the country if its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is unable to sell the well-known short video app within the next nine months to a year.
The bill was approved by the US House of Representatives on Saturday and will be signed into law by US President Joe Biden on Wednesday. The bill was prompted by widespread concerns among US lawmakers that China could access US citizens' data or use the app to spy on them.
"For years we've allowed the Chinese Communist party to control one of the most popular apps in America that was dangerously shortsighted," said Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee. "A new law is going to require its Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good move for America."
The four-year conflict between Washington and Beijing over TikTok, a social media platform used by 170 million Americans, is only one front in this struggle over technology and the internet. Apple announced last week that, because to Chinese national security concerns, Beijing had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms' WhatsApp and Threads from the Chinese App Store.
TikTok intends to contest the bill on First Amendment grounds, and users using the platform anticipate filing lawsuits once more. In November, a U.S. judge in Montana overturned a state ban on TikTok, invoking the right to free speech.
"Setting an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms," according to the American Civil Liberties Union, "banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would invite copycat measures by other countries."
TikTok, which maintains that it has not shared and would not share user data from Americans with the Chinese government, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but informed staff that it would file a lawsuit as soon as possible to try to stop the law.
In an email obtained by the media on Saturday, TikTok informed personnel that "this is the beginning, not the end of this long process."
The bill, which was tacked on to a resolution to give $95 billion in aid—mostly military—to Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine, was approved by the Senate 79 to 18. The divestiture instruction for TikTok was introduced only weeks ago, but it was approved quickly.
The courts thwarted the efforts of the then-President Donald Trump in 2020 to ban TikTok and Tencent's Chinese-owned WeChat from operating in the US.
Nonetheless, experts predict that if ByteDance is unable to divest the app, the new legislation will provide the Biden administration with a better legal foundation to prohibit TikTok.
Should ByteDance fail to divest TikTok, Apple's app stores, Alphabet's Google, and other app shops would not be able to lawfully offer TikTok or supply web hosting services to applications controlled by ByteDance or TikTok's website.
The bill would also provide further authority to the White House to prohibit or compel the sale of other foreign-owned apps that it believes pose a security risk.
Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, expressed his concerns about the bill, saying it "provides broad authority that could be abused by a future administration to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights."
ByteDance will have 270 days after the measure is signed into law to sell off TikTok's American operations; if negotiations appear to be moving forward, this time frame could be extended by three months.
Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat, stated that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for ByteDance to sell by the beginning of 2025. He also stated that such a sale would be among the most costly and intricate transactions in history, including several months or maybe years of research.
"We ought to be really clear about how this law is likely to turn out. Really, it's just a TikTok ban," he remarked. "As a people, we are not censorious. This trade-off shouldn't be minimised or ignored."
Given that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has urged young voters to think about a potential TikTok ban, the bill may also come up during the November presidential campaign.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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