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US TikTok Crackdown: House of Representatives Votes for Total Ban

Last Updated March 13, 2024 4:00 PM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Last Updated March 13, 2024 4:00 PM
Key Takeaways
  • The US House has passed a bill intending to ban TikTok in the US.
  • The app can only survive if its owner, ByteDance, will sell it.
  • TikTok is also facing some legal issues in Europe.

As widely anticipated, US House lawmakers have approved a bill that could potentially prohibit TikTok usage within the US. According to the bill’s provisions, the app’s owner ByteDance will be required to divest from TikTok within five months.

Following its passage in the House, it remains uncertain whether the Senate will deliberate on the legislation. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has expressed disappointment over the outcome of the vote.

US House Banned TikTok

On Wednesday, March 13, 2024, the US House voted to pass a bill that could potentially result in a nationwide ban on TikTok. The vote poses a significant challenge to one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.

The bill seeks to prohibit TikTok from US app stores unless the platform is separated from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The bill’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain at this time.

US House vote outcome
US House passed a bill that bans TikTok in the US l Source: CNN

Supporters of the bill argue that TikTok poses a national security threat due to concerns that the Chinese government could leverage its intelligence laws to compel ByteDance to disclose the data of US app users

TikTok contends that the legislation constitutes an assault on the First Amendment rights of its users and encourages them to voice their opposition by contacting their representatives in Washington. China’s foreign ministry has expressed strong displeasure  at the impending vote, denouncing it as an “act of bullying.”

What’s Next For ByteDance?

Despite today’s vote, the future of the bill is uncertain in the Senate. There, key figures oppose such a drastic action against TikTok, an app with 170 million US users and strong popularity.

President Joe Biden has stated that he would sign the bill, officially known as the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.” His signing would turn the bill into law.

The bill, which unanimously passed through committee last week, would mandate ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to sell the app within 180 days. Otherwise, it may face removal from the Apple and Google app stores in the US. Additionally, it grants the president authority to label other applications as national security threats. This only if they are controlled by a country adversarial to the US.

The renewed effort by Washington against TikTok took the company by surprise, as reported  by the Wall Street Journal. TikTok executives felt reassured when President Biden joined the app last month as part of his re-election campaign.

If ByteDance were seeking a buyer, Bobby Kotick, former CEO of Activision Blizzard, might be an option. WSJ said during a dinner during the Allen & Co. conference, Kotick discussed seeking partners to acquire TikTok He’d plan to purchase the app only if the law was approved and ByteDance chose to sell. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, was also present at the event.

Same Fate In Europe?

But the issues in the US may not be the only legal case that TikTok is going to face. In mid-February, in fact, the European Commission initiated  an investigation into the video app for suspected violations of EU regulations concerning child protection and advertising transparency.

The commission is examining whether TikTok’s algorithms may promote addictive behavior or create “rabbit hole effects.” Additionally, it is scrutinizing the privacy settings provided by TikTok for minors and assessing whether the platform fulfills its obligations to maintain a searchable repository of advertisements.

The investigation revolves around potential breaches of the Digital Services Act (DSA) , a recent law governing online platforms. The DSA mandates large platforms to mitigate various risks, including those related to mental well-being and children’s rights, and prohibits the use of minors’ data for targeted advertising.

If the EU finds TikTok to have violated the DSA’s risk mitigation regulations, it could face fines of up to 6% of its global annual revenue.

The Commission is probing whether TikTok is effectively managing the risk of “actual or foreseeable negative effects” stemming from its algorithms. For the EU, algorithms could potentially encourage addictive behavior or lead to “rabbit hole effects.”

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