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TikTok: Ban Will Hurt 7 Million US Businesses

TikTok says a ban on its platform in the U.S. hurts free speech and American businesses.

The social media platform made this argument Sunday (April 21), one day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would outlaw TikTok in the U.S. if the company’s China-based owner ByteDance doesn’t divest its stake within a year.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually,” the company said in a statement provided to PYMNTS.

The legislation passed the House after Republicans made the TikTok ban part of a broader foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel. An earlier version of the bill had passed in March — with supporters citing national security concerns — though the legislation later stalled in the Senate.

A report Saturday by The Associated Press (AP) notes that even if the bill does pass the Senate and gets signed into law by President Joe Biden, TikTok wouldn’t immediately vanish. ByteDance has nine months to sell, with another three months possible if a sale is in progress. 

And legal challenges could draw things out even more, as TikTok has said it would likely challenge the law in court on First Amendment grounds.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, voted against the bill and told the AP he thinks there could have been ways to go after TikTok without threatening free speech.

“I think it’s not going to be well received,” Khanna said. “It’s a sign of the Beltway being out of touch with where voters are.”

As PYMNTS wrote earlier this month, the threat of a ban has not kept brands from levering TikTok’s vast audience of younger consumers to fuel engagement and sales.

“TikTok users tend to be highly engaged with the platform, spending significant amounts of time watching and interacting with content,” that report said. “This high level of engagement can increase the visibility of branded content and help brands connect with their target audience in a more meaningful way.”

In addition, the app has a bustling community of influencers who have built large and loyal followings. Working with these influencers can help brands connect with their target audience more effectively and lend them greater credibility and trust with potential customers.