Update: President Joe Biden Signs Bill to Potentially Ban TikTok in the U.S.

President Joe Biden has officially signed the bill that could lead to the banning of TikTok in the United States if ByteDance fails to divest the app within a year.

Original Story:

The U.S. TikTok ban has cleared the Senate, leaving just one step remaining before it becomes law with the President’s signature. Given President Joe Biden’s prior indication of support for the bill, the likelihood of the TikTok ban being enacted is now nearly certain.

Seventy-nine senators in the U.S. supported the TikTok ban, outnumbering the 18 who opposed it. This bill was passed along with aid for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, marking the second time such legislation has passed the House of Representatives in the past two months, having previously stalled in the Senate.

In addition to being tied to foreign aid, the updated bill adjusted the timeline for enforcing the ban. Rather than requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok within six months, the Chinese parent company will now have nine months to divest from the app. Furthermore, the President has the authority to grant a 90-day extension, potentially extending the deadline to a full year.

If ByteDance fails to sell TikTok within this timeframe, and specifically to a company not perceived as a “foreign adversary” by the U.S. government, TikTok will be compelled to exit the U.S. market entirely. This would mean the end of popular content like dance challenges and “get ready with me” videos, among others.

TikTok Likely to Challenge U.S. Ban in Court

It’s expected that TikTok will challenge the ban through legal means. In response to a similar bill last month, CEO Shou Zi Chew hinted at the possibility of legal action to defend against the ban. TikTok has previously successfully fought off a ban in Montana, with a judge ruling it unconstitutional due to its infringement on free speech and imposition of extrajudicial punishment on the company.

“We will continue to do all we can, including exercising our legal rights, to protect this amazing platform we have built with you,” Chew stated previously.

This intention to contest the ban was reiterated in an internal memo from Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s public policy head in America, following the bill’s passage in the House of Representatives.

“At the stage that the bill is signed, we will move to the courts for a legal challenge,” Beckerman affirmed. “We’ll continue to fight, as this legislation is a clear violation of the first amendment rights of the 170 million Americans on TikTok.”

TikTok has 170 million users in the U.S., including President Biden, and nearly 7,000 employees as of last March. However, the impact of a TikTok ban extends beyond the company itself. A study commissioned by TikTok revealed that the app supported 224,000 jobs in 2023 and contributed $24.2 billion to the U.S. GDP.

U.S. TikTok Ban Raises Concerns About Free Speech

U.S. lawmakers have justified the TikTok ban by citing security concerns, alleging that the Chinese government spies on users and manipulates the algorithm to promote content favorable to China. Despite lacking evidence, these fears have been central to the push for a TikTok ban.

Some senators have also attributed the surge in support for Palestine among young people to TikTok, accusing China of promoting this cause to sow discord in the U.S.

“Let’s look at where young people are getting their news,” remarked Senator Pete Ricketts, criticizing pro-Palestinian sentiments. “The Chinese Communist Party is doing this on purpose. They are pushing this racist agenda with the intention of undermining our democratic values.”

Students at various universities have staged protests in support of Palestine, calling for a permanent ceasefire and the cessation of military aid to Israel.

The prospect of a TikTok ban has drawn criticism on social media, with many viewing it as an infringement on free speech. Lawmakers have explicitly stated their goal of preventing the spread of content sympathetic to China or Palestine. Concerns have also been raised about the potential for the ban to set a precedent for restrictions on other social media platforms.

The TikTok ban now awaits President Biden’s signature to become law. If you have favorite TikTok videos, it’s advisable to download them before any potential ban takes effect.


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