TikTok ban vote: US House passes bill that could remove app from its biggest market

About 170 million people in America use the app

US House passes bill that could ban TikTok

US House passes bill that could ban TikTok
Powered by automated translation

The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that would give TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest its US assets in the hugely popular video app, or face an outright ban in its biggest market.

While the bill passed easily with bipartisan support, with 352 votes in favour to 65 against, it will face hurdles in the Senate, where some prefer a different approach to regulating foreign-owned apps that could raise security concerns.

Calling the decision a “ban”, TikTok urged senators to listen to voters before taking up the bill.

“This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it's a ban,” the company said in a statement.

“We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realise the impact on the economy, seven million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service.”

The measure is the latest in a series of moves in Washington to respond to US national security concerns about China, from connected vehicles to advanced artificial intelligence chips to cranes at American ports.

About 170 million people in the US use TikTok, making America the app's biggest market, but the platform has come under increasing scrutiny over fears that users' personal information is being funnelled to China, where ByteDance is based.

Under the bill, TikTok must be sold within six months to a buyer who would have to guarantee that ByteDance would no longer have control over TikTok's algorithms.

Should TikTok be unable to find a buyer, app stores owned by companies such as Apple and Google would be prohibited from distributing or updating it in the US.

These are the places that have banned TikTok – video

These are the places that have banned TikTok

These are the countries that have bans on TikTok

“China is America’s largest geopolitical foe and is using technology to actively undermine America’s economy and security,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a post on X.

Mr Johnson said that TikTok and other apps allow Beijing to push “harmful content to our youth and engage in malign activities”.

Marco Rubio, Republican vice chairman of the US Senate committee on intelligence, said he was encouraged by bill's passing.

“China is already using ByteDance profiles to target and influence the behaviour, values, ideology, political opinions and votes of American TikTok users,” he said in a post on X.

Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer did not say how he intends to proceed with the bill.

“The Senate will review the legislation when it comes over from the House,” Mr Schumer said in a statement.

Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z member of Congress, was one of the few to oppose the bill, saying it will harm business owners and content creators.

“The problem is the process here, the fact that it's been steamrollered and people really can't digest the consequences,” Mr Frost said.

In a last-ditch effort to keep the bill from passing, TikTok invited content creators to meet members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Those influencers, including JT Laybourne and Dani Morin, said they were among many small businesses who rely on the app to support their families.

“My hopes was to be the voice of the parent who use TikTok as a source of safe parenting information,” Ms Morin said in a video posted on the platform.

Members of Congress who supported the TikTok ban, however, largely focused their arguments on national security and concerns over Chinese ownership of the platform.

The White House said it welcomed the bill's passing and hopes the Senate will take quick action on it.

"This bill is important, and we welcome the step in an ongoing efforts to address the threat posed by certain technology services operating in the United States that put at risk Americans' personal information and our broader national security, including through the manipulation by foreign powers of Americans views," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Ms Jean-Pierre said the bill would not ban apps such as TikTok.

"What it would do is to ensure that ownership ... of the apps wouldn't be in the hands of those who can exploit them or to do us harm," she said.

US President Joe Biden said last week that he would sign the bill.

This is despite Mr Biden's re-election campaign opening an account on the platform last month to connect with younger voters.

Former president Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok in 2020, but was blocked by the US court system. He has reversed his stance in recent days and has voiced opposition to such a ban.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday on a scheduled trip to talk to senators, US media reported.

Updated: March 14, 2024, 6:21 AM