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

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Updated: | Originally published:

The House passed a bill on April 20 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 would force ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to either sell the video-sharing platform or prohibit it from becoming available in the U.S. The measure passed 360-58 as part of a larger foreign aid package that will also send military support to Ukraine and Israel. 

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. 

The future of TikTok now falls to the Senate. Lawmakers are set to begin voting on the bill package Tuesday, where it’s likely to pass. The Associated Press reports that the company will likely sue over the law in court, delaying the timeline for implementation and meaning the app is unlikely to go away soon. 

This bill comes at an interesting time. In February, President Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign joined TikTok in an apparent attempt to connect with younger voters. Biden said that he would sign a TikTok ban if it reaches his desk. 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.

Biden said in a statement on Saturday following the passage of the bill package that the House “voted to advance our national security interests.” The statement did not mention TikTok. He urged the Senate “to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law.” 

TIME has reached out to TikTok for comment. 

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

What does the bill propose?

The proposed TikTok ban is part of one bill passed on April 20 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. 

If the bill is passed, TikTok would 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 bill 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 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,” said TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in a response video, calling the House vote “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 in a 352-65 vote in March. The Senate was considering it. 

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.”  

What could happen if the bill is passed?

If the bill is passed, it is likely the President will sign it, starting the 270-day clock for ByteDance to 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 bill says. (TikTok said on X on April 17 that the ban would impact 170 million Americans).

The AP reports that ByteDance is likely to sue to stop the law’s implementation. 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?

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’s 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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