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24 Apr, 2024 16:50

US sets clock ticking for TikTok

President Biden has signed a bill forcing the platform’s Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest ownership or face a ban
US sets clock ticking for TikTok

US President Joe Biden has signed a new law that could potentially lead to TikTok being banned in the country. The legislation is part of a bill that includes over $95 billion in military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Under the new TikTok law, ByteDance - the platform’s Chinese owner - will have nine months to sell its business or it will be barred from US app stores. The bill will also bar it from controlling TikTok’s algorithm.

The bill was approved by the US House of Representatives on Saturday and by the Senate on Tuesday.

The legislation comes after a number of US officials expressed concerns that the app poses a risk to national security and could be used by Chinese authorities to obtain the private data of US citizens or influence their opinions by suppressing or promoting certain content on TikTok.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell stressed that “Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance, TikTok or any other individual company”; it is making the move to “prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, maligned operations, harming vulnerable Americans, our servicemen and women, and our US government personnel.”

TikTok has threatened to legally challenge the US government over the law. The company’s head of public policy for the Americas, Michael Beckerman, has described the bill as a violation of the First Amendment rights of the app’s 170 million users in the US and warned that the potential ban would also have “devastating consequences” for the nearly seven million businesses using the platform.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew posted a response to the new law, addressing the users of the platform. “Make no mistake, this is a ban. A ban on TikTok, a ban on you, and a ban on your voice... Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere. We are confident that we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts. The facts and the Constitution are on our side, and we expect to prevail.”

China has also blasted plans to ban TikTok in the US, describing such a move as “contrary to the principles of fair competition and international economic and trade rules” and accusing Washington of “bullying behavior” and “leveraging state power” against ByteDance.

Some US lawmakers have also opposed the bill, calling it a “cure” that is “worse than the disease” and raising concerns that it would give the White House the power to ban other websites and apps.

Elon Musk has also warned that the bill is “about censorship and government control,” while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has denounced the legislation as “violating the free speech rights of millions of Americans” who use the platform daily.