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Bipartisan Bill Would Force ByteDance To Divest TikTok Or Face U.S. Ban

TikTok would face a ban in the United States unless it severs ties to ByteDance, its parent company that has long face scrutiny and criticism for its connections to the Chinese government, under new legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers.

The bill, introduced today, would prevent app stores or web hosting services from TikTok applications unless it severs ties to ByteDance. The bill also gives the president a process for designating that a social media application under the control of a foreign adversary as a national security risk. ByteDance, based in China, would have about five months to divest its U.S. operations.

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The legislation has the backing of Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the chairman and the ranking member of the House Select Committee on the CCP.

In a statement, Gallagher said, This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users. America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States. TikTok’s time in the United States is over unless it ends its relationship with CCP-controlled ByteDance.”

TikTok said that the bill would violate its free-speech rights. In a statement, the company said, “This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it. This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”

TikTok has long denied that it shares data of U.S. users with the Chinese government. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified in a contentious House Energy and Commerce hearing last year, with some lawmakers citing a Chinese law that requires companies to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services, if called upon to do so. Chew, though, tried to assuage concerns by pointing to a project to keep data on U.S. servers.

This is not the first effort to restrict the platform. Senate legislation stalled last year, and a Trump administration effort to ban TikTok through executive order was blocked in the courts.

The new legislation also comes amid an election year, as some campaigns have embraced TikTok to reach young voters. Even though there is a restriction of the use of the app on government devices, Joe Biden’s campaign debuted its first TikTok video with the president on Super Bowl Sunday.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a markup and vote on the bill on Thursday.

Read the TikTok bill.

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