Congress explores new bill to force a sale or ban of TikTok in America

Congress explores new bill to force a sale or ban of TikTok in America - Business and Finance - News

Title: New Bill Threatens to Ban TikTok from US Devices: A Renewed Attempt to Address National Security Concerns

The US House of Representatives is set to vote on a new bill that aims to prohibit TikTok from being downloaded onto all American phones and tablets. This legislative move reflects the ongoing bipartisan efforts to address national Website security concerns linked to the popular Website social media integration platform, which is estimated to be used by approximately 170 million Americans.

The proposed legislation, currently under review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would mandate TikTok to be spun off from its China-linked parent company, ByteDance, within 165 days or face being banned from US app stores. Major tech companies like Apple and Google would be prevented from making the app available for download once this deadline passes. The bill also targets other apps controlled by foreign adversary companies.

This is the most aggressive piece of legislation targeting TikTok to come out of Congress since the company’s CEO, Shou Chew, testified before lawmakers last year that the app poses no threat to Americans. The bill was introduced with bipartisan support by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who chairs the House Select Committee on China, and Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, with White House backing and Speaker Mike Johnson’s support. However, the bill’s prospects in the Senate remain uncertain.

For years, US officials have raised concerns about the potential risks associated with user data collected by TikTok, given China’s intelligence laws, which could force ByteDance to hand over such information to Beijing. There is a fear that the Chinese government could use this personal data to identify intelligence targets or facilitate mass disinformation campaigns, disrupting elections and causing chaos.

Although no public evidence has been presented that the Chinese government has accessed TikTok user data, cybersecurity experts consider this a serious concern, as governments can purchase personal information from data brokers or use commercial spyware to hack individual phones.

State and federal lawmakers have already taken steps to restrict TikTok’s usage, with bans on government-owned devices. However, efforts to broaden these restrictions to personal devices have been met with challenges. Last year, Senate lawmakers proposed legislation curbing TikTok’s access but raised concerns that it might give the executive branch excessive power.

Regulatory attempts to ban TikTok date back to the Trump administration, which employed a series of executive orders attempting to force app stores not to offer TikTok and compelling ByteDance to divest the company. These efforts stalled amid legal challenges, leading TikTok to engage in negotiations with the US government about securing Americans’ personal data, which are ongoing despite the company’s efforts to store US user data on US-based servers controlled by Oracle.

In Montana, a federal judge temporarily blocked a statewide ban on TikTok in 2021, finding the legislation to be overly broad and potentially infringing upon Montanans’ First Amendment rights to access information through the app.

A legislative factsheet from the bill sponsors claims that the proposal does not infringe upon freedom of speech. “It is focused entirely on foreign adversary control—not the content of speech being shared,” the document states. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) disagrees, asserting that the bill’s overall effect would infringe upon Americans’ free speech rights. “We’re deeply disappointed that our leaders are once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the ACLU. “Just because the bill sponsors claim that banning TikTok isn’t about suppressing speech, there’s no denying that it would do just that. We strongly urge legislators to vote no on this unconstitutional bill.”