Bill to Force Sale of TikTok to US Company or Face Ban Moves to the House Floor for Vote

The legislation has the support of the Biden administration

TikTok
TikTok (Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A new bill to force TikTok’s Chinese owners to sell the popular video app or face a ban in the United States is heading to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

The bill got a 50-0 vote in committee Thursday after TikTok users saw notifications pop up telling them to call their members of Congress about the bill, even providing an automatic call connection with the touch of a button, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The stunt “quickly overwhelmed the phone lines of some congressional offices, which were bombarded with hang-ups and questions,” the report said. It also served to remind lawmakers how TikTok can mobilize its vast user base — the app has been downloaded by 170 million Americans.

“I think TikTok made our case for us today,” said Ohip Republican Bob Latta, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce committee on communications and technology, before the unanimous vote. Before the vote, legislators attended a classified briefing that detailed how TikTok can use its user data, which some found alarming, The Journal reported.

The bill would essentially give ByteDance, TikTok’s China-based parent company, a choice: sell the app to an American owner or face a ban in the U.S.

The bill will go to the floor for a full vote next week, said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican. It’s not clear what sort of reception it will get in the Senate.

The White House supports the bill, which mirrors Biden’s call for similar efforts last year.

Prior legislation to ban TikTok has faltered, including a law banning the app in Montana that a federal judge blocked in December, citing First Amendment concerns.

TikTok isn’t done fighting the legislation. The company plans to continue efforts to reach out to its users and TikTok celebrities to publicly campaign against it, a person close to the company told The Journal. The report said the company will also speak with lawmakers and the Biden administration about its legal concerns about the legislation.

The company intends to point out the bad optics of supporting a bill to ban the app just weeks after President Biden joined TikTok as part of his re-election campaign.

Former President Trump on Thursday night posted opposition to the bill on his Truth Social platform. “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business,” he said. “I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!”

The app also got a shout out in the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union Thursday night, when Alabama Sen. Katie Britt said the Chinese Communist Party is “spreading propaganda through the likes of TikTok.”

“The CCP knows that if it conquers the minds of our next generation, it conquers America,” Britt said. “And what does President Biden do? He bans TikTok for government employees, but creates an account for his own campaign.”

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