House passes bill that could ban TikTok in the U.S.


The House overwhelmingly handed a measure Wednesday to pressure TikTok to separate from its father or mother firm or face a nationwide ban, a lightning offensive that materialized abruptly after years of unsuccessful negotiations over the platform’s destiny.

The laws, permitted 352 to 65 with 1 voting current, is a sweeping bipartisan rebuke of the widespread video-sharing app — and an try and grapple with allegations that its China-based father or mother, ByteDance, presents nationwide safety dangers. The House effort gained momentum final week after President Biden mentioned he would signal the bill if Congress handed it.

But its destiny now rests in the Senate, the place some lawmakers have expressed concern it could run afoul of the Constitution by infringing on tens of millions of Americans’ rights to free expression and by explicitly concentrating on a enterprise working in the United States.

“Today we send a clear message that we will not tolerate our adversaries weaponizing our freedoms against us,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), whose committee superior the TikTok bill simply days prior, mentioned forward of the vote.

Though TikTok is integrated in the United States and has headquarters in Los Angeles, its ties to Beijing-based tech large ByteDance have lengthy triggered fears the app could be weaponized by Chinese authorities officers to eavesdrop on Americans or form their political beliefs. The firm says it has by no means shared U.S. person knowledge with the Chinese authorities and wouldn’t achieve this if requested, and its critics have but to current proof to the opposite. It has additionally disputed claims of any international interference or affect.

Those assurances have didn’t assuage many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. TikTok has been unable to succeed in a cope with nationwide safety officers to quell their considerations — fueling efforts in Congress.

While the lawmakers main the effort say they’re primarily pushing for the firm to divest from ByteDance, TikTok has hammered the effort for having a “predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States.”

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression,” the firm mentioned in a press release final week.

Lawmakers unveiled a number of proposals final 12 months geared toward granting the federal authorities extra energy to limit TikTok and different apps believed to be linked to U.S. adversaries, with a few of the measures garnering bipartisan assist. Last March, House lawmakers hauled in TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew for a contentious listening to as they seemed to construct momentum for motion towards the agency.

The push appeared to fizzle amid blowback from liberal Democrats, who mentioned it flouted free-speech rights, and Republicans, who argued it will grant the federal authorities extreme energy to ban or censor digital companies.

The dynamics out of the blue shifted final week after the leaders of key House committees introduced the new laws concentrating on TikTok.

Two of the committees with jurisdiction have been scrutinizing TikTok’s perceived safety threats for months however had but to agree on a legislative response till now.

Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), leaders of the choose committee on China, beforehand launched one other bill concentrating on TikTok, which was stymied amid constitutional considerations. The Commerce panel greenlit the bill led by Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi 50-0 final week, advancing it simply two days after its introduction, an unprecedented tempo for laws concentrating on tech corporations.

“This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” Gallagher mentioned in a press release final week.

Lawmakers have tried and failed for years to move laws to crack down on tech corporations’ privateness and content material moderation practices and alleged anti-competitive abuses, with the strongest efforts spawning investigations that spanned over a 12 months.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House antitrust committee spent greater than two years investigating and crafting laws geared toward barring main tech corporations from squelching rivals earlier than marking up any laws in 2021.

Senate lawmakers, in the meantime, held quite a few hearings on little one on-line security after a Facebook whistleblower stepped ahead with allegations of firm wrongdoing, and it took until the subsequent 12 months for a key panel to undertake a pair of proposals geared toward increasing guardrails for teenagers.

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The newest House salvo towards TikTok has moved a lot quicker, and in contrast to these previous legislative efforts, it expressly targets a selected firm.

Wednesday’s vote is the first time a chamber of Congress has permitted laws that could result in the platform’s prohibition all through the nation.

TikTok mounted an aggressive push to thwart the House’s consideration of the measure over the previous week, straight urging U.S. customers to contact their representatives and oppose it in a pop-up message. The tactic inundated congressional workplaces with calls, at occasions forcing workplaces to close off their telephones. But it additionally riled up House leaders, who accused the firm of wielding its huge energy in a bid to upend the congressional debate over its future.

The bill lacks a companion measure in the Senate, the place lawmakers have pushed for competing approaches for months to sort out considerations over apps considered as safety threats. The dynamics sign a more durable and possibly slower path to passage.

Last March, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled the Restrict Act, which might give the Commerce Department extra authority to evaluate and probably block expertise offers involving corporations from international locations deemed to be international adversaries, a measure tacitly geared toward corporations like TikTok. The White House’s National Security Council endorsed the measure and referred to as on Congress “to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”

Lawmakers have floated quite a few different approaches, together with a yet-to-be-unveiled bill from Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), however none appeared to realize broad sufficient assist to clear both chamber of Congress till House leaders launched their newest proposal final week.

The House measure combines elements of previous payments, explicitly concentrating on TikTok and its father or mother firm whereas giving the federal authorities a brand new mechanism to ban apps with ties to nations considered as international adversaries. If ByteDance declined to spin off TikTok, the bill would require app retailer suppliers to cease carrying the platform, which could successfully shutter its U.S. operations.

Biden and his marketing campaign opponent, former president Donald Trump, have taken conflicting public stances on the matter, with Biden endorsing it and Trump talking out towards the prospect of a ban.

How Donald Trump switched to defending TikTok

Key Senate negotiators have both expressed concern about the new bill’s strategy or been noncommittal about taking over the measure.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), lead sponsor of the Restrict Act, mentioned final week that he nonetheless has “concerns about the constitutionality of an approach that names specific companies.” Cantwell, whose panel would most likely must log out on the new bill, has but to point whether or not committee leaders plan to introduce and mark up the measure.

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