Li_DanLi_Dan ・ Apr. 25, 2024
US President Biden Signs Potential TikTok Ban into Law
TikTok vowed to challenge the law in court right after Biden's signing and warned the ban "would devastate seven million businesses and silence 170 million Americans."

TMTPost -- The world’s leading short video application TikTok is facing the most serious risk of ban in the United States.

Credit:Xinhua News Agency

Credit:Xinhua News Agency

The U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill that could ban TikTok in the country on Wednesday, hours after the U.S. Senate pass the legislation. The bill is part of a comprehensive foreign aid package providing assistance to Israel, Ukraine and other U.S allies. It gives TikTok owner ByteDance up to a year to divest its U.S. assets including TikTok, otherwise the Chinese tech giant would face a ban on its app being available in U.S. app stores or on U.S. web hosting services. The requirement of the latest bill suggested the deadline of TikTok sales was extended by six months after a bill the House passed last month would have allowed.  

A standalone bill with a six-month selling deadline was passed in the House in March by an overwhelming bipartisan vote as both Democrats and Republicans voiced national security concerns about the application's owner, the Chinese technology firm ByteDance. The approved version of the bill on Saturday would extend the timeframe for TikTok to find a new owner to 270 days, compared to the approximately six months stipulated in previous versions of the legislation. Additionally, the bill grants the White House the authority to prolong this deadline by another 90 days if the president deems that progress has been made towards a sale.

TikTok boasts over 170 million users in the United States and holds significant economic and cultural influence. Advocates for the measure have voiced their apprehensions regarding the company's ownership structure, suggesting it could potentially grant the Chinese government access to American users' data—a claim flatly refuted by TikTok. While supporters of the potential ban say it is necessary in order to mitigate national security risks the app poses due to China-based ByteDance. TikTok previously insisted it has never shared U.S. data and never would. It has said ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country. In a statement Sunday, TikTok warned Sunday that a potential ban on the popular short video app would trample free speech in U.S.

TikTok has vowed to pursue legal action against the U.S. government should Biden sign the bill into law. In a memo sent to employees on Saturday, a senior TikTok executive said that this would mark the "beginning, not the end" of a protracted process to contest what the company perceives as unconstitutional legislation that infringes upon Americans' speech rights and poses a threat to small businesses reliant on the app.

TikTok stressed its pledge to fight the potential ban right after Biden’s signing. “This unconstitutional law is a TikTok ban, and we will challenge it in court,” the company wrote in a Wednesday statement. “We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail.” It reiterated dangerous consequences as the ban "would devastate seven million businesses and silence 170 million Americans." Noting it has invested billions of dollars to keep U.S. data safe and its platform free from outside influence and manipulation, Tiktok said it will continue to challenge the "unconstitutional ban" and continue investing and innovating in U.S.

China has issued warnings about any attempts to curb Chinese tech. China will do whatever it takes to resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights and interests, He Yadong, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said after the U.S. House vote for the TikTok bill last month. The U.S. side should earnestly respect the market economy and the principle of fair competition, cease unjust suppression of foreign companies and provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for enterprises from all countries, He commented at a regular press conference last month.

There's speculation that if the Chinese government refuses to permit ByteDance to divest TikTok's algorithm, it could outright block the sale. Alternatively, it might consent to TikTok's sale but without transferring the valuable algorithm, which serves as the foundation of its popularity.

The push to force a TikTok sale has already generated speculation about potential buyers, including a group of investors brought together by a former Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin; large American corporations; or a coalition of private equity firms, according to The New York Times.

The trouble lies in the fact that TikTok's parent company is beholden to Chinese law, and the Chinese government has openly opposed the sale. Over the past few years, China has enforced export controls that extend to algorithms, a policy that covers the highly effective algorithm driving TikTok's recommendation system.

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