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US House Passes Bill to Force ByteDance’s Divestment of TikTok Assets

 |  March 13, 2024
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill with overwhelming support aimed at compelling ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, to divest its US assets within approximately six months.
Failure to comply would result in a ban, marking the most significant threat to the popular short-video app since the Trump administration’s attempts to restrict its operations, reported Reuters.

The bill, passed with a decisive vote of 352-65 and backed by bipartisan support, underscores growing concerns about national security implications associated with foreign-owned apps, particularly those from China. Despite its success in the House, the legislation faces a more uncertain path in the Senate, where there are varying opinions on the best approach to regulating such apps. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has confirmed that the Senate will review the bill, reported Reuters.

TikTok, boasting approximately 170 million American users, has become a focal point of debate in Washington. Lawmakers report receiving a deluge of calls from teenage TikTok users voicing opposition to the legislation, with the volume of complaints sometimes surpassing those concerning major international conflicts.

Related: Legislation to Force ByteDance Divestment of TikTok Gains Momentum

Responding to the House’s decision, a TikTok spokesperson criticized the process as secretive and characterized the bill as a ban. They expressed hope that the Senate would take into account the perspectives of constituents and carefully consider the facts before making a decision.

The bill represents the latest in a series of actions by the U.S. government aimed at addressing national security concerns related to China. From connected vehicles to advanced artificial intelligence chips to infrastructure projects like cranes at U.S. ports, policymakers are increasingly focused on mitigating potential risks associated with Chinese involvement in critical sectors.

Prominent figures within Congress have emphasized the urgency of the issue. No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise labeled it a “critical national security issue,” urging the Senate to swiftly take up the legislation. However, Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell, who will play a pivotal role in shaping the Senate’s response, expressed a desire for legislation that could withstand legal challenges and indicated consideration of alternative approaches.

As the fate of TikTok hangs in the balance, the spotlight remains firmly fixed on Capitol Hill, where debates over national security, foreign ownership, and the regulation of digital platforms converge in what promises to be a significant legislative showdown.

Source: Reuters