House of Representatives approves bill to ban TikTok in US News
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House of Representatives approves bill to ban TikTok in US

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill that could ban TikTok in the US.

If enacted, the bill would outlaw the distribution, maintenance, or updating of any app owned by or affiliated with the Beijing-based TikTok owner ByteDance, Ltd., or any successor or subsidiary if such is owned by “foreign adversaries” — a term the bill’s drafters use to refer to “non-allied foreign nations” as defined in 10 U.S. Code § 4872. At present, these countries include North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran.

While the bill targets TikTok specifically, it also lays the framework to target other “foreign adversary controlled applications.” In this case, additional steps would be required, including public notice that the company with ownership or control of the app was being considered for the designation, and a public report to Congress detailing the specific security concerns. For the app could be banned under this legislation, the US president would then have to determine on these bases that the company indeed poses a national security threat.

The bill outlines exemptions for qualified divestitures and certain necessary services.

The vote earned substantial bipartisan support, with 197 Republicans and 155 Democrats voting in support, and 15 of the former and 50 of the latter voting against. There was vocal opposition among the lawmakers who voted against the bill. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote via X:

I’m voting NO on the TikTok forced sale bill. This bill was incredibly rushed, from committee to vote in 4 days, with little explanation. There are serious antitrust and privacy questions here, and any national security concerns should be laid out to the public prior to a vote.

The legislation has also provoked the ire of advocacy groups devoted to free speech and expression, a coalition of which released a letter Tuesday urging House leaders to reject the bill, arguing:

It would violate the First Amendment rights of Americans across the country who rely on TikTok for information, communication, advocacy, and entertainment. This bill would functionally ban the distribution of TikTok in the United States, and would grant the President broad new powers to ban other social media platforms based on their country of origin.

TikTok last week appealed directly to users, urging them to call their representatives to vocalize opposition to the ban.

Correction: The original version of this article referred to “foreign adversaries” as defined in the US Code of Federal Regulations Title 15, Subtitle A, Part 7, Subpart A, Section 7.4. The bill approved by the House on Wednesday referred instead to the term “foreign adversaries” to describe “non-allied foreign nations,” as listed in 10 U.S. Code § 4872 – Acquisition of sensitive materials from non-allied foreign nations: prohibition. The article has been updated to reflect this change.