A striking image of US legislators in a formal meeting room, discussing and voting on a measure to require TikTok to divest or risk a ban in the country. The legislators are seen wearing suits and dresses, with serious expressions on their faces. The room is adorned with the American flag and is filled with a sense of urgency and importance.

US legislators adopt measure requiring TikTok to divest or risk ban.

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee overwhelmingly adopted legislation on Thursday that gives China’s ByteDance six months to withdraw from the short video app TikTok or risk a US ban.

The 50-0 vote signals the most significant impetus for a US crackdown on TikTok, which has about 170 million US subscribers and has been blocked for the last year due to intensive lobbying by the corporation.

Lawmakers want to move swiftly on the proposal, with the US House of Representatives planning a vote next week.

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“This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States,” the firm said after the vote. “The government is seeking to deny 170 million Americans their constitutional right to free speech. This would harm millions of companies, deny artists an audience, and decimate the lives of many creative throughout the nation.”

Prior to the vote, MPs received a closed-door secret briefing on national security concerns over TikTok’s Chinese ownership.

On Thursday, Representative Frank Pallone, the committee’s top Democrat, expressed his hope that the law “will force divestment of TikTok and Americans will be able to continue to use this and other similarly situated platforms without the risk that they are being operated and controlled by our adversaries.”

Representative Mike Gallagher, the Republican chairman of the House Select China Committee, and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the panel’s senior Democrat, have submitted legislation to address national security concerns raised by Chinese ownership of the app.

“TikTok could live on, and people could do whatever they want with it, as long as there is that separation,” Gallagher said, asking US ByteDance investors to back a sale. “It is not a ban – think of this as a surgery designed to remove the tumor and thereby save the patient in the process.”

TikTok users were swarming Capitol Hill with phone calls imploring politicians not to support the proposal, according to a congressional staffer.

When asked whether the law would have an influence on Tencent’s WeChat operations in the United States, which then-President Donald Trump attempted to prohibit in 2020, Gallagher declined to predict, saying that “going forward we can debate what companies fall” under the bill.

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The measure would allow ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok; otherwise, Apple, Google, and other app stores would be unable to legally provide TikTok or provide web hosting services for ByteDance-controlled apps.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre hailed the idea, saying the government wants “to see this bill get done so it can get to the president’s desk.”

The app is popular, and passing laws during an election year may be tough. Last month, Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign joined TikTok.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who presented a measure last year to grant the White House expanded powers over TikTok, has expressed worries about the legality of naming individual corporations, but would “take a close look at this bill.”

In late November, a US court halted Montana’s first-of-its-kind state ban on TikTok, citing a violation of users’ free expression rights.

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In March 2023, the Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ordered that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their shares or risk the app being banned, according to Reuters, but the administration has taken no action.

TikTok states that it has not and will not share US user data with the Chinese authorities.

The new measure aims to increase the legal ability to handle TikTok. Biden’s predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, attempted to ban TikTok in 2020 but was rejected by US courts.


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