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Senate Passes Bill Requiring TikTok’s Parent Company to Sell or Face Ban, Awaits Biden’s Signature

Senate Passes Bill Requiring TikTok’s Parent Company to Sell or Face Ban, Awaits Biden’s Signature

The Senate has recently passed a bill that would require TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the popular social media platform or face a ban. This move by U.S. lawmakers has sparked controversy and is expected to face legal challenges. The bill was included as part of a larger $95 billion package that provides foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel, and it passed with a vote of 79-18. It now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature, who has expressed support for the TikTok proposal.

The decision to attach the TikTok bill to the high-priority package was made by House Republicans last week. This strategic move helped expedite its passage in Congress after negotiations with the Senate. The earlier version of the bill had given ByteDance six months to divest its stakes in TikTok, but some lawmakers were concerned that this timeframe was too short for a complex deal worth billions of dollars. The revised legislation extends the deadline to nine months, with a possible three-month extension if a sale is in progress.

One key provision of the bill is that it would prevent ByteDance from controlling TikTok’s algorithm, which is responsible for feeding users videos based on their interests. This algorithm has been instrumental in making TikTok a trendsetting phenomenon. The passage of this legislation reflects long-held bipartisan fears in Washington over Chinese threats and the ownership of TikTok. Lawmakers have expressed concerns that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over U.S. user data or manipulate content on the platform.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell emphasized that Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance or TikTok, but rather to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage or harming vulnerable Americans. However, opponents of the bill argue that banning TikTok would be an extraordinary step that requires extraordinary justification. They suggest that the best way to protect U.S. consumers is through a comprehensive federal data privacy law that applies to all companies, regardless of their origin.

Critics also note that the U.S. has not provided public evidence that shows TikTok sharing U.S. user information with Chinese authorities or that Chinese officials have manipulated its algorithm. They believe that the legislation has fundamental constitutional flaws and does not adequately address the urgency of the threat it claims to mitigate.

China has previously stated its opposition to a forced sale of TikTok and has signaled its opposition once again. TikTok, which has consistently denied being a security threat, is preparing to file a lawsuit to block the legislation. This is not the first time the company has faced legal challenges. In the past, it successfully prevented a Montana law that would have banned TikTok use across the state and blocked an executive order by former President Donald Trump to ban the platform.

While TikTok has seen success with court challenges, preventing federal legislation from going into effect would be a new endeavor for the company. TikTok has been in negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States regarding its future. Recent developments include the resignation of ByteDance’s top attorney, Erich Andersen, who led talks with the U.S. government for years.

Meanwhile, TikTok content creators have been voicing their concerns about the bill. Some creators gathered in front of the Capitol building to protest and carry signs expressing their support for TikTok. They argue that TikTok is a safe platform due to Project Texas, a $1.5 billion mitigation plan by TikTok to store U.S. user data on servers owned by Oracle.

As the bill awaits President Biden’s signature, it is clear that the future of TikTok hangs in the balance. The legal battles and negotiations between ByteDance and U.S. authorities will likely continue, making this just the beginning of a long process. The outcome will have significant implications not only for TikTok but also for the broader landscape of social media and data privacy in the United States.

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