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House of Representatives Passes Legislation to Ban TikTok, Uncertainty Looms Over Fate of Popular Social Media Platform

-Editorial

In a decisive move on Saturday, the House of Representatives approved legislation aimed at banning TikTok from the United States if its China-based owner fails to sell its stake within a year. Despite the swift action, the fate of the popular social media platform remains uncertain.

House Republicans incorporated TikTok’s ban into a broader foreign aid package, a measure heavily endorsed by President Joe Biden and widely supported by Congress for its focus on aiding Ukraine and Israel. This inclusion expedited the ban after an earlier version languished in the Senate. Initially proposed as a standalone bill with a six-month selling deadline, the legislation garnered overwhelming bipartisan support in March. Both Democrats and Republicans expressed grave national security concerns regarding ByteDance Ltd., the Chinese technology firm behind TikTok.

The revised bill passed with a resounding 360-58 vote, and now heads to the Senate following negotiations that extended the timeline for ByteDance to divest to nine months, with a potential additional three months if a sale is underway.

TikTok has encountered resistance across the United States, with various states implementing partial or attempted bans. Concerns over potential data collection and influence by the Chinese government have plagued the platform since its inception. Previous attempts to ban TikTok or force its sale, notably by the Trump administration in 2020, were halted by judicial intervention and later rescinded by President Biden.

President Biden’s administration, through Executive Order 14034 issued on June 9, 2021, aimed to safeguard Americans’ sensitive data from foreign adversaries. Despite revoking several executive orders from the previous administration, the Biden administration continued to scrutinize foreign-owned applications for potential threats to national security.

Efforts to curtail TikTok’s influence culminated in the passage of H.R. 7521 by the House of Representatives in March 2024, signaling a bipartisan determination to address the app’s perceived risks. The bill awaits Senate action to determine its fate.

As of April 2023, at least 34 states have announced or implemented bans on TikTok usage by state government agencies, employees, and contractors on government-issued devices. However, these bans do not extend to civilians using the app on personal devices.

In November 2023, Montana became the first U.S. state to pass a ban that included personal devices, making it illegal for app stores to allow TikTok to be downloaded within Montana. However, a federal judge blocked the state ban from taking effect.

Critics claim that banning the use of TikTok by Americans violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which they say protects users’ freedom to express themselves online. They claim that blocking the freedom to make these choices and completely banning access to TikTok prevents users from exercising their right to freedom of expression.

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