The TikTok Ban Has a Real Shot at Becoming Law This Week

The TikTok Ban Has a Real Shot at Becoming Law This Week

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the so-called TikTok ban (again) on Saturday as part of a crucial package to provide foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, according to The Washington Post. The bill that could ban or force a sale of TikTok seems to be on a fast track through Congress, widely expected to become law later this week.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo on Monday.

The House passed the potential ban on TikTok on Saturday alongside bills providing $US8 billion to Taiwan, $US60 billion to Ukraine, $US17 billion to Isreal, and $US9 billion to humanitarian aid in Gaza. Packaging the TikTok bill with pressing, bipartisan bills makes it more likely that the Senate will bring them to the floor. Powerful Democrats and Republicans, from President Joe Biden to Senator Mitch McConnell, have signaled support for passing the TikTok bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tells the Washington Post that the Senate will “take the matter up” this week on Tuesday. A version of the TikTok bill overwhelmingly passed through the House in March but lost steam in the Senate.

TikTok is prepared to fight the U.S.government if the potential ban is signed into law. The social media company told U.S. employees that it will promptly move to the courts for a legal challenge if the TikTok bill is passed, Bloomberg reported on Sunday. A lawsuit of this kind would be unprecedented, but in light of this, TikTok’s general counsel who oversaw U.S. national security negotiations has reportedly stepped down.

TikTok says its app’s existence is a matter of free speech, similar to Elon Musk’s claims around X’s content moderation policies lately. Musk recently came down in favor of TikTok in the United States, likely because Bytedance’s app is fighting the same “social media as freedom of speech” battle that he is. He joins Donald Trump, who has also switched to supporting the app after rumored meetings with TikTok investor Jeff Yass.

Technology lawyers also raised concerns that the TikTok bill could ban more apps than just TikTok. The bill outright names Bytedance, but it could set a precedent around government control over app stores.

The TikTok bill that passed the House on Saturday gives Bytedance 360 days, instead of 180 days in the last version, to divest from TikTok and sell to a U.S. owner. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives says TikTok is probably worth around $US100 billion, according to Axios, but that value falls to $US40 billion if the sale doesn’t include TikTok’s algorithm. There’s a small group who could buy TikTok at either of those price points, but if the app fails to be sold, it will be banned in America.

The bill that could ban TikTok may become a divisive issue in the 2024 election. Biden could lose the support of younger voters if he becomes the old president who banned the favorite app of most young people. That said, Congress was given a confidential briefing on TikTok in March that raised “deeply troubling” concerns about the app’s ability to spy on Americans.

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