tiktok ban bill

Two bipartisan TikTok bills have been unanimously voted out of committee, with a floor vote expected to arrive next week. Photo Credit: Charles Deluvio

A pair of bills centering on TikTok – one of which would compel the platform’s ByteDance parent to sell or shut down the service in the US – are gaining momentum in Congress, raising significant questions about the short-form app’s future.

We reported yesterday on the unanimous committee approval behind what appears the more serious of the legislative proposals, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. That measure would effectively require Beijing-based ByteDance to cease operating TikTok, which has long faced user-privacy and data-security criticism, in the States.

While a number of other pieces of legislation would have also set the stage for the forced sale or outright ban of TikTok, the mentioned act is especially noteworthy given the strong bipartisan support it’s garnering. A unanimous vote saw 50 Energy and Commerce Committee members, from both sides of the aisle, back the bill, which essentially amounts to a ban for ByteDance itself and has now been teed up for a wider House vote next week.

(TikTok encouraged users to contact their representatives about the bill, and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers reportedly indicated that lawmakers had “received ‘record’ numbers of calls.” The disturbing nature of some of these calls, many seemingly attributable to young non-voters, reportedly compelled certain on-the-fence parties to green-light the act.)

Furthermore, though the subject’s received comparatively little attention, a companion bill scored unanimous committee approval as well.

The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Adversaries Act, in keeping with its title, would attempt to prohibit the transfer of a variety of “sensitive data” from “data brokers” to any “entity that is controlled by a foreign adversary.” Predictably, the measure would have far-reaching implications for ByteDance and TikTok.

Needless to say, the TikTok ban bills’ legislative momentum could spell trouble for the video-sharing platform and its owner. That the involved committee votes were unanimous appears to suggest stronger-than-reported anti-TikTok sentiment in Congress. Exactly why that opposition is reaching a boiling point at present, after years of pushback and less-than-ideal developments involving TikTok, isn’t entirely clear.

But the situation may simply mark the culmination of these developments, including but not limited to government-level TikTok bans in nations around the globe, hundreds of millions of dollars in fines against the app for alleged data shortcomings, and an abundance of troubling reports regarding the Chinese government’s influence over TikTok.

In any event, while the bills’ fate remains to be seen – referring not only to the quick-approaching House votes but also to their progress in the Senate – the current operational obstacles of TikTok aren’t confined to the halls of Congress.

Besides the above-outlined legislation, the platform is staring down a European Union investigation over its impact on minors; should ByteDance actually be made to sell TikTok stateside, the EU could well take steps to realize a similar outcome.

Additionally, the highly problematic Universal Music licensing dispute is now threatening to snowball into a wider industry confrontation for TikTok, on which nearly 85 percent of clips reportedly featured music as of December of 2023.

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