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US: House passes bill that could ban TikTok despite resistance from Trump

Source: CNN

The House voted with bipartisan, overwhelming fashion on Wednesday to pass a bill that could lead to a nationwide ban against TikTok, a major challenge to one of the world’s most popular social media apps.

The bill would prohibit TikTok from US app stores unless the social media platform — used by roughly 170 million Americans — is spun off from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. It’s not yet clear what the future of the bill will be in the Senate.

The House vote was 352 to 65, with 50 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting in opposition.

Lawmakers supportive of the bill have argued TikTok poses a national security threat because the Chinese government could use its intelligence laws against ByteDance, forcing it to hand over the data of US app users.

The push to pass the bill came up against headwinds from several different political directions: former President Donald Trump, who was once a proponent of banning the platform, has since equivocated on his position, while Democrats are facing pressure from young progressives among whom TikTok remains a preferred social media platform.

TikTok creators and Beijing have responded angrily to the upcoming vote, with China’s foreign ministry calling it an “act of bullying.”

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the measure advanced unanimously out of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, and President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

The bill would give ByteDance roughly five months to sell TikTok. If not divested by that time, it would be illegal for app store operators such as Apple and Google to make it available for download.

TikTok has called the legislation an attack on the constitutional right to freedom of expression for its users. It launched a call-to-action campaign within the app, urging users to call representatives in Washington to oppose the bill.

Multiple congressional offices have said they’ve been flooded with calls.

In a statement on Wednesday’s vote, TikTok said its attention would now shift to the Senate, where the fate of the legislation is unclear.

“This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it’s a ban,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday would not commit to holding a vote on the House’s TikTok bill, underscoring the uncertainty over what will happen next.

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