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TikTok Faces Ban in US as House Approves Ownership Bill

The US House of Representatives has approved a significant bill that could result in the ban of TikTok in America.

Under this legislation, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, would be mandated to divest its controlling stake within six months, failing which the app would be prohibited in the US.

Despite receiving substantial bipartisan support, the bill must still navigate through the Senate and obtain the president’s signature to be enacted into law.

Lawmakers have harbored persistent apprehensions regarding China’s sway over TikTok, given its ownership by the Chinese company ByteDance, established in 2012.

The Beijing-headquartered company is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and maintains offices throughout Europe and the United States.

Should the bill successfully navigate through the Senate, President Joe Biden has pledged to swiftly sign it into law, a move that could potentially trigger a diplomatic dispute with China.

ByteDance would be compelled to obtain approval from Chinese authorities to comply with the mandated divestiture, a prospect Beijing has vehemently opposed. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned that such actions could have repercussions for the United States.

Mike Gallagher, a Republican representative from Wisconsin and co-sponsor of the bill, emphasized the necessity of mitigating the risk posed by a dominant social media platform in the US controlled or owned by a company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Under Chinese law, companies are obligated to share data with the government upon request, raising national security concerns in the United States.

TikTok has sought to reassure regulators by asserting that it has implemented measures to safeguard the data of its 150 million users in the United States from access by ByteDance employees in China.

In a statement, TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, emphasized the company’s dedication to maintaining the security of its data and ensuring the platform remains immune to external manipulation.

Expressing concerns, Chew cautioned that if the bill is enacted, it would result in the app being banned in the US, thus consolidating power among a select few social media companies and jeopardizing thousands of American jobs.

However, an investigation conducted by the Wall Street Journal in January revealed that the system remains susceptible to breaches, with data being informally exchanged between TikTok in the US and ByteDance in China. Instances such as ByteDance employees in China accessing a journalist’s data to trace their sources have heightened apprehensions surrounding the platform’s data security.

Before the vote, Hakeem Jeffries, the leading Democrat in the House, expressed support for the bill, stating that it would reduce the risk of TikTok user data being exploited and privacy being compromised by foreign adversaries.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the Senate would now assess the legislation.

The bill’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain following opposition from former Republican President Donald Trump. Trump, who had attempted to ban TikTok during his presidency, reversed his stance after meeting with Republican donor Jeff Yass, purportedly a minor stakeholder in ByteDance.

Several House members, including Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, echoed Trump’s opposition. Greene took to social media to express concerns that the bill could set a precedent for Congress to compel the sale of other corporations under the guise of protecting US data from foreign adversaries.

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