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Wait, Is Congress Really Voting to Ban TikTok This Week?

Wait, Is Congress Really Voting to Ban TikTok This Week?

Congress is set to vote on a law this week that could potentially ban TikTok in the U.S.

Although — everybody breathe — that’s very, very unlikely to happen.

Congress has been floating the idea of banning or at the very least heavily restricting TikTok for years over concerns of privacy and security data. The core concern is that ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, is a Chinese corporation that could potentially be manipulated by the Chinese government to share user information.

The proposed law received a 50-0 approval vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 7, just two days after the bill was introduced. That’s a quick turnaround for a new bill, but that’s likely because U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials gave a classified briefing to lawmakers urging them to fast-track the measure.

The bill would require ByteDance to sell its U.S. subsidiary within six months of the law taking effect. Additionally, it grants the president power to prohibit foreign adversary-owned social media platforms from accessing U.S. users unless they break off from their overseas owners. These restrictions would apply to apps with over 1 million yearly users. For reference, TikTok has roughly 170 million American users.

The legislation is not intended to create a total ban on TikTok, as supporters have clarified. The goal would be a forced divestiture by ByteDance due to concerns that Chinese government officials have access to Americans’ data and could use that information to persuade public opinion. Several U.S. corporations have been rumored to be potential buyers, primarily Microsoft.

However, TikTok has repeatedly denied the claims of user data being shared with the Chinese government. Last year, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress in a meme-able hearing defending his company’s policies.

Despite TikTok’s protests, House lawmakers could vote on the bill as early as today, and experts expect it to pass with at least a two-thirds majority. The bill would then move on to the Senate, where it’s already gained support.

“I’m very concerned about foreign adversaries’ exploitation of Americans’ sensitive data and their attempts to build backdoors in our information communication technology and services supply chains,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “These are national security threats and it is good [that] members in both chambers are taking them seriously. I will be talking to my Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

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