U.S. News


TikTok ban poised to pass through Senate

Lawmakers want to force the Chinese owner of TikTok to sell the company, or have it banned in the U.S.
A TikTok content creator sits outside the U.S. Capitol.
Posted at 8:56 PM, Apr 23, 2024

A largely lauded bipartisan foreign aid package makes its way to the Senate on Tuesday — expected to pass with urgency as it contains billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine and Israel.

But tucked away in that aid package is an ultimatum to Chinese company ByteDance: Sell TikTok within nine months, with a possible extension of three more months, or be banned from operating in the U.S.

It's a decision that has support from both sides of the political aisle, as lawmakers say the app puts Americans' data at risk of being in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, who may use it for nefarious reasons against the United States.

In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine was confident that the app with more than 150 million American users will find a buyer.

"From the user experience you're not going to see TikTok banned, you're not going to see TikTok go away. The user will have a greater comfort level that their information is not going to be misused by a foreign adversary to mislead them," he said.

Daniel Castro is the vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation foundation, a nonpartisan think-tank in D.C. that includes tech companies as funders.

"The reality, of course, is that these are all legitimate risks, but banning just this one app is not going to solve those issues, and it risks doing something that is typically very un-American, which is censoring online speech," said Castro.

He says that a sale is not guaranteed and will be difficult to get done in the time allowed.

"If they're faced with a sale or nothing, the ByteDance owners would prefer to sell, but they have to get approval from the Chinese government to execute that sell. And it's not clear at all that the Chinese government would approve that," he said.

Influencers and people who use TikTok's algorithm to drive sales for their small businesses are still hoping for a presidential veto.

On Monday, a group of creators signed an open letter to President Biden about how his signature on this bill may hurt his upcoming presidential reelection bid, saying in part: "We will continue to mobilize and utilize our platforms to defend TikTok, even though it comes at the opportunity cost of collaborating on other important initiatives like voter turnout. We invite open dialogue and engagement on this matter."

Meanwhile, ByteDance has been urging its American users to contact Congress and has already threatened to sue the United States over free speech if this TikTok provision passes over free speech violations.