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Is the United States Congress About to Ban TikTok?

House Bill 7521, or “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” was introduced on March 5 by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.). If enacted, the bill would block ByteDance-controlled apps, including TikTok, from being available in Apple or Google app stores or on web hosting services in the U.S., unless such an app “severs ties to entities like ByteDance that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary .”

Rep. Gallagher said in a statement Thursday, “This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” continuing, “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.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously advanced the bill with a 50-0 vote. The bill will head to a floor vote next week, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said in a post on X Thursday evening.

Earlier Thursday, TikTok displayed an alert to users in the U.S. urging them to oppose the legislation that said, “Stop a TikTok shutdown” and prompting them to call their congressional representatives with the message, “Let Congress know what TikTok means to you and tell them to vote NO.”

In addition to requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok or be banned in the U.S., the bill “creates a process for the President to designate certain, specifically defined social media applications that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary” and “pose a national security risk.”

Montana last year became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning TikTok. However, a federal judge blocked the legislation before it was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024 — ruling that it “oversteps state power and infringes on the Constitutional rights of users and businesses.”

The reason for the ban comes from concerns about spying from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). TikTok is used by approximately 170 million Americans. US officials have warned that China’s intelligence laws could enable Beijing to access the user information TikTok collects by forcing ByteDance to hand over the data.

The fear of the Chinese government using personal information to identify intelligence targets or to facilitate mass disinformation campaigns that could disrupt elections.

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