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TikTok is facing a US ban as the bill is set to be signed by Biden



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The US Senate has passed a bill that could lead to TikTok being banned in America due to national security concerns.

Under the legislation, TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance has nine months to divest its stake or the app will be banned in the United States.

The bill will now be forwarded to US President Joe Biden, who has signaled his intention to sign it into law immediately upon arrival on his desk.

TikTok has said it currently has no immediate response to this development. ByteDance previously said it would oppose any attempt to force it to sell TikTok.

“This is significant,” said Doug Calidas, a technology expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, speaking to the BBC. “Within a few weeks, they managed to pass legislation through both chambers, which is rare. It is remarkable to see such swift action on a matter of public interest.”

If the US succeeds in pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok, any transaction would still require approval from Chinese authorities. However, China has vowed to oppose such actions.

The process of blocking the app in the US could take several years as legal challenges from ByteDance, likely to escalate to the Supreme Court, would prolong the process.

The legislation gives the company nine months to divest TikTok, with an additional three-month grace period.

Additionally, there is the issue of identifying potential buyers who can exploit the platform, with the acquisition likely to require tens of billions of dollars, limiting the pool of potential buyers.

Failure to sell the app within the specified time frame may result in the app being banned in the country. The US is raising concerns that TikTok could be exploited for espionage or propaganda purposes.

Although TikTok collects similar data to other apps, the US is concerned that this data could potentially fall into the hands of the Chinese government, a claim consistently refuted by the company.

U.S. lawmakers could also face public backlash, as TikTok has more than 170 million users nationwide.

Aid for Ukraine

The measure was part of a package of four bills including military aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

The bill received broad support from lawmakers, with 79 senators voting in favor and 18 against.

“For years, we gave the Chinese Communist Party control of one of America’s most popular apps, which was dangerously shortsighted,” noted Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “This new law will force the Chinese owner to divest the app. It is a positive step for America,” he added.

TikTok has raised civil liberties concerns in its defense.

Last week, the social media company argued that the bill would “undermine the freedom of speech of 170 million Americans, destroy seven million businesses and shut down a platform that contributes $24 billion annually to the American economy.”

TikTok claims that ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country.” Furthermore, ByteDance claims it is not a Chinese company, pointing to global investment firms that own 60% of the company.

Its CEO, Shou Zi Chew, has stated that the company will continue to use “legal rights” to protect the platform.

Mr. Shou faced congressional questioning twice in less than a year, during which he downplayed the app’s ties to Chinese authorities, both on a business and personal level.

TikTok has made significant efforts to mobilize support against the potential ban, including a substantial lobbying campaign.

The platform has also urged TikTok users and creators to oppose the bill.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told the BBC that a protracted legal battle would likely last about two years.

He added that if a buyer for ByteDance’s stake is not found within the nine-month period, it could further delay any action against TikTok in the US.