Home ‘The choice is TikTok’s’: U.S. House passes legislation to ban app if ByteDance refuses to sell
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‘The choice is TikTok’s’: U.S. House passes legislation to ban app if ByteDance refuses to sell

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The prospects of legislation now in the U.S. Senate are unclear, but what is clear in America is that lawmakers refuse to play with China.

The U.S. House passed a bill in a vote of 352 to 65 this morning, according to the Associated Press, which would lead to a ban in the nation of social media app TikTok if its China-based parent company, ByteDance Ltd., does not sell. Lawmakers have raised concerns for more than a year that ByteDance’s ownership is a national security threat for America.

More than 150 million Americans share videos on TikTok. As a Chinese-based company, American lawmakers believe the video app has ties to the Chinese government, which could demand access to data of American consumers. A set of Chinese national security laws force organizations to assist the Chinese government with collection of intelligence.

“We have given TikTok a clear choice,” U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said. “Separate from your parent company ByteDance, which is beholden to the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party), and remain operational in the United States, or side with the CCP and face the consequences. The choice is TikTok’s.”

The legislation must now pass the U.S. Senate and receive President Joe Biden’s signature before it is official law in the U.S. On Friday, March 8, Biden commented to reporters at Joint Base Andrews that he would sign the bill.

In recent months, lawmakers have clashed with other social media platforms, including Meta and Facebook on the safety of youth using the platforms. Now a potential ban on TikTok comes months before the 2024 presidential election and many TikTok users are of America’s generation of youth.

Even within American politics, Democrats and Republicans have battled over social media, including TikTok.

Before the House voted today, the Biden Administration and a top national security official met behind closed doors in a briefing on Tuesday about TikTok and its implications for national security. Lawmakers walk a fine line between national security and limiting free speech, which is reminiscent of the CCP.

“The answer to authoritarianism is not more authoritarianism,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. “The answer to CCP-style propaganda is not CCP-style oppression. Let us slow down before we blunder down this very steep and slippery slope.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin authored the bill.

“What we’ve tried to do here is be very thoughtful and deliberate about the need to force a divestiture of TikTok without granting any authority to the executive branch to regulate content or go after any American company,” he said after Tuesday’s briefing.

TikTok has denied its role as a tool for the Chinese government and denied sharing user data with the Chinese government. No evidence has been revealed to prove TikTok has shared American data.

“My opinion, leaving that briefing, has not changed at all,” U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia of California said of the lack of proof that TikTok is a national security threat. “This idea that we’re going to ban, essentially, entrepreneurs, small business owners, the main way how young people actually communicate with each other is to me insane.”

According to California U.S. Rep. Sara Jacobs, the classified briefing Tuesday shared nothing that did not also apply to other social media platforms.

While president, Donald Trump attempted an executive order to ban TikTok, courts blocked the action when TikTok sued and argued violation of free speech and due process rights.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.