House Passes TikTok Legislation

The House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for China tech giant ByteDance to divest TikTok or risk a ban in the United States. The legislation, titled the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, was introduced by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and approved with a strong majority of 352-65. Only one member voted present. The bill now moves to the Senate, where its future is uncertain as senators appear divided on the issue.

The bill was initially introduced on March 5th, with its creators citing concerns over national security due to TikTok's alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party. It has since gained traction, with members of both parties claiming that TikTok poses a risk to the safety of Americans. The legislation targets the popular social video app and requires ByteDance to divest it within roughly six months in order for it to remain available in the United States. App store owners like Apple and Google, along with internet hosting companies, would also be prohibited from supporting TikTok and other apps linked to ByteDance.

While House members who drafted the bill previously claimed that it does not ban TikTok, the legislation's current form would effectively do just that. The bill's passage was met with disappointment from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who addressed the app's users in a short video posted on TikTok after the vote. He said the legislation, if signed into law, would lead to a ban on TikTok in the United States, and stressed that the company would continue to fight to protect its platform and its users.

President Joe Biden has previously stated that he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also acknowledged that the White House is providing technical support in the crafting of the legislation. Despite these efforts, the bill faces pushback from tech policy and civil liberties organizations who fear it would violate First Amendment rights. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Knight Institute have both publicly opposed the bill.

In a surprising twist, former President Donald Trump expressed concern that banning TikTok would make Facebook's parent company, Meta, more powerful. Trump has previously taken steps to remove TikTok from app stores in 2020, citing national security concerns, and also ordered ByteDance to divest the app. These efforts ultimately led nowhere, and TikTok remains available to this day. Trump's latest comments highlight a possible shift in his stance towards TikTok, as he now appears to see it as a threat to rival social media giants rather than a security risk.

If the bill passes in its current state, app store owners and internet hosts would be required to stop supporting TikTok and other ByteDance-controlled apps. This could potentially harm TikTok's U.S.-only business, which has an estimated valuation of over $60 billion. However, this assumption remains uncertain, as ByteDance could choose to halt the app's operations in the United States rather than comply with the bill's demands.

The bill's passage has also sparked backlash from prominent venture capitalist and Republican megadonor Keith Rabois, who stated that he would not fund any Republican candidates or leadership PACs that voted against the legislation. Rabois went as far as to call support for the TikTok bill an "IQ test" for members of Congress.

The potential ban of TikTok in the U.S. has already sparked concerns among prominent TikTok creators, leading them to search for ways to diversify their businesses away from the app. This could have a significant impact on the app's popularity and potential revenue streams, as many creators hold a substantial following and influence on the platform. The uncertain future of TikTok in the U.S. casts a dark shadow over its future success, leaving many to question if and how it will bounce back from this latest threat to its existence.

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