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TikTok Closer to Potential U.S. Ban as House Passes Bill Requiring Sale

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation that would force TikTok owner ByteDance to sell the social media network or face a ban in the United States. The Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act will now go to the Senate, where its fate is unclear.

U.S. lawmakers want TikTok to be sold to a company outside of China due to concerns that the Chinese government could force ByteDance to hand over data from users located in the United States. If China made the request, ByteDance would not be able to refuse. There have also been suggestions that China could use TikTok to spread political propaganda.

ByteDance has attempted to alleviate these fears by storing data from U.S. users on servers owned by Oracle, but the White House and lawmakers do not believe that is enough.

If passed, the bill would require ByteDance to sell TikTok within six months to a company approved by the U.S. government. Should ByteDance not sell the company, U.S. app stores would not be able to distribute the app without breaking the law, effectively leading to a ban. China would also need to approve the sale, and the Chinese government made it clear last year that it would “firmly oppose” a forced sale.

There are a limited number of companies with enough capital to be able to afford TikTok, and the obvious choices, such as Google or Meta, would likely be barred from acquiring it due to antitrust concerns.

Should the bill make it through the Senate, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed that he would sign it into law. A number of senators have expressed worries about the wording of the act, and it does not have universal support at this time.

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