House to vote on bill that could ban TikTok; what to know about the legislation

Capitol Hill was inundated with calls from kids and teens Thursday, after TikTok urged its users to call lawmakers and express their opposition to a ban.

A vote in the U.S. House on Wednesday could decide the future of the popular social media platform TikTok, forcing the app’s Chinese parent company to sell or face a ban in the U.S.

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The bill to be voted on by the full House is called the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. If the bill becomes law, it would require any company deemed by the president of the United States to be a “foreign adversary” to divest within 180 days, or be banned from app stores and web hosting services, The Washington Post reported.

What will Wednesday’s vote mean for TikTok and its 102.3 million users in the US? Here’s what we know now:

What does the bill say?

The bill, first introduced in the House on March 5 by Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., would make it possible for the president to classify social media platforms under the control of countries considered adversarial to the United States as national security threats.

If a platform is deemed a national security threat, it would be banned from app stores and web hosting services in the U.S. unless it cuts all ties with the foreign adversarial country within 180 days, The Associated Press reported.

Gallagher is the chairman of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. Krishnamoorthi is the ranking member of that committee.

Why is TikTok being targeted?

While the bill does not mention TikTok directly, the bill’s sponsors have focused on the social media sharing site following briefings by the FBI and the National Security Council outlining the concerns intelligence agencies have about the app, and the fact that the app is owned by a China-based company.

“This is my message to TikTok: Break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” Gallagher said in a news release about the legislation.

Gallagher went on to explain that the legislation is not intended to ban the app that is so popular with teens and young adults.

“What we’re after is, it’s not a ban, it’s a forced separation,” Gallagher told NPR. “The TikTok user experience can continue and improve so long as ByteDance doesn’t own the company.”

What does Wednesday’s vote mean for the bill becoming law?

The legislation is not law yet, but it has cleared the first hurdle and if it passes Wednesday’s vote, it will move to the Senate.

Last week, the bill passed its first challenge when the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 50-0 to move the bill to a vote of the full House.

Most bills that see a vote in the full House or Senate are first voted on in the chambers’ committees.

On Wednesday, the bill will be debated on the House floor then a vote will be taken. The voting is expected to begin at 10 a.m. EDT. It will take a two-thirds majority of the House for the bill to pass.

The bill would then move on to the Senate where it will be debated in a committee, and if passed out of the committee, sent to the Senate floor for a vote.

Should it pass on the Senate floor, the legislation would then be sent to President Joe Biden to either sign the bill into law or veto it.

Will Biden sign the bill into law?

The Biden administration has indicated it supports the bill.

Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act in 2022, barring federal government employees from using TikTok on agency-owned devices. However, his campaign is now using the app as part of its re-election strategy.

On Feb. 11, Biden’s team posted its first TikTok video. The campaign uses a separate device specifically to log into TikTok, isolating it from communications on other devices, The Associated Press reported.

What happens to TikTok in the US if the bill becomes law?

If the bill becomes law, it is believed that Biden will designate TikTok as a national security threat. That would require ByteDance to either divest or sell the platform within 180 days or see U.S.-based app stores and web hosting services be prohibited from providing TikTok to the public.

Divestment could mean selling the app to a U.S.-based company.

The definition of a “qualified divestiture” — the term used in the legislation — would be determined by the president, according to the bill.

Does this only apply to TikTok?

No, the bill creates the structure for the president to designate certain social media apps as “subject to the control of a foreign adversary.”

Other apps could be given the same 180-day ultimatum.





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