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Senate Demands ByteDance Divest from TikTok or Face U.S. Ban

Senate Demands ByteDance Divest from TikTok or Face U.S. Ban

Apr 24, 2024

Senate Demands ByteDance Divest from TikTok or Face U.S. Ban

The United States Senate approved a bill demanding that Chinese firm ByteDance divest its ownership of the popular social media app TikTok within 270 days or forfeit access to the American market. This bill, which is part of a larger appropriations measure offering aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, passed with a 79-18 vote and was promptly signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Titled the "Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act," the legislation specifically targets TikTok, characterizing it as a "foreign adversary controlled application." ByteDance must now find a buyer for TikTok to maintain its presence in the U.S. market, although an extension of up to 90 days can be granted by President Biden if a sale is underway.

The law stipulates that if ByteDance fails to divest, American app stores would be required to remove TikTok, and Internet hosting services would be prohibited from supporting the app's distribution in the U.S. Non-compliant companies could face civil penalties.

Controversy surrounds the bill, with Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) emphasizing that the move is to prevent espionage and other harmful activities by foreign adversaries, not to punish individual companies. However, Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) voiced concerns about potential censorship and First Amendment rights violations, despite voting for the larger bill containing this act.

ByteDance has announced intentions to challenge the law in court, with TikTok's head of public policy in the U.S., Michael Beckerman, asserting the law's infringement on the First Amendment rights of American users. TikTok maintains that substantial investments have been made to safeguard U.S. data and ensure the platform's independence from foreign influence.

The debate over TikTok has been ongoing for years, with the app's 170 million U.S. users at the center of concerns regarding data privacy and surveillance by China. The American Civil Liberties Union warned that such a ban could set a dangerous precedent for government overreach into social media.

The new law grants the White House additional powers to ban or mandate the sale of other foreign-owned applications deemed security threats. As the law takes effect, ByteDance is faced with the challenge of executing a complex and potentially costly divestiture within the specified timeframe, with the future of TikTok in the U.S. hanging in the balance.

The Bill

Reuters Article

Arstechnica Article


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