The US House passes a bill that could lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok

TikTok users in the US are facing the possibility of being locked out of the app following the passage of a bill in the US House of Representatives. The bill gives ByteDance, the China-based parent company of TikTok, six months to sell its controlling stake in the app. If it does not, the app will be blocked in the US.

The source of the concern is that ByteDance falls under the purview of the Chinese government, which means apps are subject to censorship protocols and the requirement to share user data with Chinese authorities when requested. These provisions make foreign governments nervous.

The bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. However, some members raised concerns over potential issues including government overreach, while a larger number of Democratic lawmakers are concerned the banning of the app would alienate younger voters—a key voting block needed by Democrats to succeed in November’s elections. Former President Donald Trump is also against the ban, despite efforts to ban the app in the past.

The Chinese government scoffed at the bill. The BBC quotes a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson as saying: “This kind of bullying behavior that cannot win in fair competition disrupts companies’ normal business activity, damages the confidence of international investors in the investment environment, and damages the normal international economic and trade order.” 

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TikTok’s exploding popularity has led to a surge in advertising revenue. Research firm Emarketer estimates TikTok will bring in about $8.66 billion in ad revenue from the US alone this year. It’s become a popular app for influencers and small businesses to market their products.

TikTok has long been a concern for foreign governments. It’s already banned from government devices in many European countries, a majority of US states, and Canada. It also has a blanket ban in India. Last year, an Australia Senate committee warned that TikTok represented one of the country’s biggest security risks.

The bill gives ByteDance just six months to divest itself. According to ByteDance (via the CNBC), TikTok could be worth as much as $268 billion. That’s a big price tag that will leave potential investors hesitant, and that’s before the possibility of antitrust measures and legal challenges coming into the equation. Only a handful of companies have the ability to come up with that kind of money.

The bill will head to the US Senate. If it passes, President Joe Biden has indicated he will sign it immediately. 

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