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Senate passes bill forcing TikTok’s parent company to sell or ban, sends to Biden for signature – JS



Senate passes bill forcing TikTok's parent company to sell or ban, sends to Biden for signature - The Denver Post

By HALELUYA HADERO (AP Business Writer)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that would force TikTok’s Chinese parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a controversial move by U.S. lawmakers that is expected to face legal challenges and threaten lives of content will disrupt. creators who rely on the short video app for income.

The TikTok legislation was included as part of a larger $95 billion package providing foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel and passed 79-18. It now goes to President Joe Biden, who said in a statement immediately after passage that he will sign it on Wednesday.

A decision by House Republicans last week to attach the TikTok bill to the high-priority package helped speed its passage in Congress and came after negotiations with the Senate, where an earlier version of the bill had come to a standstill. That version would have given TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, six months to divest its interests in the platform. But it raised skepticism among some key lawmakers, who worried there was too little room for a complex deal that could be worth tens of billions of dollars.

The revised legislation extends the deadline, giving ByteDance nine months to sell TikTok, and a possible three-month extension if a sale is in progress. The bill would also strip the company of control over TikTok’s secret sauce: the algorithm that sends users videos based on their interests and has made the platform a trendsetting phenomenon.

TikTok did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday evening.

The passage of the legislation is the culmination of long-held fears from both parties in Washington over Chinese threats and ownership of TikTok, which is used by 170 million Americans. For years, lawmakers and government officials have raised concerns that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over U.S. user data, or influence Americans by suppressing or promoting certain content on TikTok.

“Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance, TikTok or any other individual company,” said Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “Congress is acting to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, and maligned operations that harm vulnerable Americans, our military, and our U.S. government employees.”

Opponents of the bill say the Chinese government could easily obtain information about Americans through other means, including through commercial data brokers that trade in personal information. The foreign aid package includes a provision that makes it illegal for data brokers to sell or rent “personally identifiable sensitive data” to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran or entities in those countries. But it has faced some resistance, including from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the language is written too broadly and could entrap journalists and others who publish personal information.

Many opponents of the TikTok measure argue that the best way to protect American consumers is to implement a comprehensive federal data privacy law that targets all companies, regardless of where they come from. They also note that the US has not provided any public evidence showing that TikTok shares US user information with Chinese authorities, or that Chinese officials have ever tinkered with the algorithm.

“Banning TikTok would be an extraordinary step that requires extraordinary justification,” said Becca Branum, deputy director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy & Technology, which advocates for digital rights. “Extending the divestiture deadline neither justifies the urgency of the threat to the public nor addresses the fundamental constitutional flaws of the legislation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat who voted in favor of the legislation, said he has concerns about TikTok, but he also worries the bill could negatively impact free speech and not do enough to protect consumer privacy and could potentially be abused by a future administration violates First Amendment rights.

“I plan to watch how this legislation is implemented,” Wyden said in a statement.

China has previously said it would oppose a forced sale of TikTok, and this time has made its opposition known. TikTok, which has long denied it is a security risk, is also preparing a lawsuit to block the legislation.

“At the stage where the bill is signed, we will go to court for a legal challenge,” Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for America, wrote in a memo sent to employees on Saturday and obtained by The Associated Press.

“This is the beginning, not the end, of this long process,” Beckerman wrote.

The company has had some success with lawsuits in the past, but has never tried to prevent the enactment of federal legislation.

In November, a federal judge blocked a Montana law that would ban the use of TikTok across the state after the company and five content creators using the platform were sued. Three years before that, federal courts blocked an executive order issued by then-President Donald Trump to ban TikTok after the company filed a lawsuit alleging the order violated free speech and the right to due process.

The Trump administration then struck a deal in which American companies Oracle and Walmart took a major stake in TikTok. But the sale never went through.

Trump, who is running for president again this year, now says he is against the possible ban.

Since then, TikTok has been negotiating its future with the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a little-known government agency tasked with investigating corporate deals over national security concerns.

On Sunday, Erich Andersen, a top ByteDance lawyer who led talks with the U.S. government for years, told his team he was stepping down from his position.

“A few months ago, when I began to reflect on the tensions of recent years and the new generation of challenges ahead, I decided the time was right to pass the baton to a new leader,” Andersen wrote in a internal memo. that was obtained by the AP. He said the decision to resign was entirely his own and was made months ago in a conversation with the company’s senior leaders.

Meanwhile, so have TikTok content creators who rely on the app trying to make their voices heard. Earlier Tuesday, some creators gathered in front of the Capitol to speak out against the bill and carry signs that read, among other things, “I am 1 of 170 million Americans on TikTok.”

Tiffany Cianci, a content creator who has more than 140,000 followers on the platform and has encouraged people to appear, said she was picking up creators from airports in the DC area on Monday evening. Some came from as far away as Nevada and California. Others drove overnight from South Carolina or took a bus from upstate New York.

Cianci said she believes TikTok is the safest platform for users right now because of Project Texas, TikTok’s $1.5 billion mitigation plan to store U.S. user data on servers owned and maintained by tech giant Oracle.

“If our data is not safe on TikTok,” she said. “I would ask why the president is on TikTok.”


Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Matt O’Brien contributed to this report.