What to Know About the Law That Could Get TikTok Banned in the U.S.

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Updated: | Originally published:

President Joe Biden signed into law on April 24 a bill that would ban TikTok in the U.S. if the social media platform’s China-based owner doesn’t sell its stake within a year. 

The legislation forces ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to either sell the video-sharing platform or prohibit it from becoming available in the U.S. 

The Senate passed the measure on April 23 with a vote of 79-18 as part of a larger $95 billion foreign aid package that will also send military support to Ukraine, Israel, and other U.S. allies. The House approved the same bill 360-58 on April 20.

The House previously passed a bipartisan TikTok ban bill that had a six-month selling deadline in March, but the legislation hadn’t come to a vote in the Senate yet. Combining a TikTok measure in the foreign aid package fast-tracked its passage. 

After signing the package into law, Biden gave an address that focused on Ukraine and Israel, but did not mention TikTok by name. “This is consequential,” he said about the entire package, vowing that the legislation as a whole would make America safer. 

In response, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew posted a message on the platform Wednesday decrying the law that he said “is designed to ban TikTok in the United States.” 

“That will take TikTok away from you and 170 million Americans who find community and connection on our platform. Make no mistake, this is a ban––a ban on TikTok and a ban on you and your voice,” he said.

Chew implied that the company would sue over the new law.

“Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere,” he continued. “We are confident and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts. The facts and the Constitution are on our side, and we expect to prevail again.” 

TIME has reached out to TikTok for further comment. 

The new law comes at an interesting time. In February, Biden’s 2024 campaign joined TikTok in an apparent attempt to connect with younger voters. Former President Donald Trump has said that he does not support a TikTok ban, calling the app a national security risk but arguing that a potential ban could make Facebook more powerful.

Here’s what you need to know about the new law that could ban TikTok. 

What does the new TikTok law say?

The proposed TikTok ban was part of a bill, one among the package signed into law, called the “21st Century Peace through Strength Act” that also puts more sanctions on Russia and Iran. The bill prohibits a “foreign adversary controlled application” within U.S. borders, defining that as anything operated directly or indirectly by ByteDance, TikTok or a subsidiary. 

TikTok will now have 270 days (around nine months) to sell, which Biden could extend by 90 days if there’s progress toward a sale. 

How does the new TikTok law differ from the first proposed ban?

The first bill that proposed banning TikTok, called “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” was introduced in the House on Mar. 5 by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). Pressure to regulate TikTok has been mounting in the last year since FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that the app is a tool of the Chinese government and “screams out with national security concerns.” 

Lawmakers worry that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could use TikTok as a tool to help influence the democratic processes of the U.S., either by showing and promoting content that supports its agendas or collecting data on its American users. 

“This is my message to TikTok: Break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users,” said Chairman Gallagher on Mar. 5, in a press release regarding the bill. 

“So long as it is owned by ByteDance and thus required to collaborate with the CCP, TikTok poses critical threats to our national security,” added Rep. Krishnamoorthi.  

TikTok has denied having ties to the CCP.

“We have invested to keep your data safe and our platform free from outside manipulation. We have committed that we would continue to do so,” Chew said in a response video to the House vote on the first bill, calling the outcome“disappointing.” Chew also mentioned that the bill would give power to other social media companies outside of TikTok. 

The House passed the initial TikTok bill 352-65 in March. 

During discussions on the House floor on April 20, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who put forth the new bill that includes the TikTok ban, said “this bill also protects Americans––especially our children––from the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party-controlled TikTok.” He later said on X, formerly Twitter, that he was “very pleased” after its passage: “We must stand strong in the face of aggression; our adversaries are watching us.”  

In Chew’s video following the bill being signed into law, the CEO vowed to continue to invest and innovate to keep the platform safe. He said through U.S. data security efforts, the company has built safeguards “that no other peer company has made.” 

“We have invested billions of dollars to secure your data and keep our platform free from outside manipulation,” he said. 

What will happen now?

The 270-day clock starts now. ByteDance must either sell the platform or face a ban. If they don’t, they can be fined with a civil penalty of $5,000 multiplied by the number of users in the U.S., the new law says. (TikTok said on X on April 17 that the ban would impact 170 million Americans).

Chew’s statements imply that the company will fight the decision. The bill says an entity can challenge the law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit no later than 165 days after the act is enacted. 

How has TikTok responded?

In his most recent video message, Chew argued that TikTok gives everyday people the freedom of expression that reflects American values. He also said TikTok is home to seven million business owners who have built livelihoods on the platform. 

‘It’s obviously a disappointing moment, but it does not need to be a defining one,” he said of the potential ban.    

Ahead of the bill’s passage, TikTok posted on X on April 18 a criticism of the legislation.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually,” the post read. 

TikTok has responded by notifying all of its users with an advertisement urging them to call their congressional representatives to express their discontent with the legislation.

“Congress is planning a total ban of TikTok,” the app informs users. “This will damage millions of businesses, destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country, and deny artists an audience.”  

TikTok CEO Chew has visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill to argue against the legislation. In a video shared on the social media platform, he said that the ban would put more than 300,000 American jobs at risk. Chew also encouraged people to speak out against the ban, and make their “voices heard."

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