US Senators pass divestment-or-ban bill on TikTok

The immensely popular social media app to be banned if Chinese parent company ByteDance does not sell it

US ban on TikTok

The U.S. Senate recently passed significant legislation that targets TikTok by demanding its Chinese owner, ByteDance, either sell the app or face a comprehensive ban within the United States. This decisive action came after years of escalating concerns among U.S. lawmakers about the potential for Chinese access to American users' data and the possibility of surveillance through the app.

The bill cleared the Senate with a substantial majority and previously, the House of Representatives had shown similar support. With President Joe Biden's endorsement and his commitment to sign it into law, the legislation reflects a strong bipartisan consensus on the issue.

Key proponents of the bill have expressed that forcing a divestment of TikTok is a crucial step in severing the ties it has with the Chinese government, which they deem a necessary move for safeguarding American digital sovereignty.

Fears for national security and geopolitical situation

The legislative push against TikTok (used by 170 million Americans) aligns with the U.S.'s broader geopolitical strategy, particularly highlighting the technological tug-of-war with China. Senator Marco Rubio, a leading voice on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has pointedly criticized past U.S. policy approaches, stating:[1]

For years we've allowed the Chinese Communist party to control one of the most popular apps in America that was dangerously shortsighted. A new law is going to require its Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good move for America.

His comments reflect a consensus among U.S. lawmakers that Chinese control over such a widely used platform poses unacceptable risks.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry cited earlier criticisms made when the House passed a similar bill earlier in response to the Senate's vote. Asserting that “the U.S. has never found any evidence of TikTok posing a threat to the U.S.'s national security, it has never stopped going after TikTok,” the Ministry has repeatedly maintained that the U.S. has not proven its security claims against the platform.[2] This demonstrates the continued rift between Washington and Beijing as the US moves forcefully to reduce perceived risks from Chinese technology companies.

This legislation was strategically included in a vital foreign aid package, ensuring its passage by tying it to critical international support measures for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Such strategic legislative maneuvering underscores the importance of the issue within U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Moreover, this battle over TikTok is part of a broader conflict over internet and technology governance, exemplified last week when Apple announced that Beijing had ordered it to remove apps like WhatsApp and Threads from its store in China due to national security concerns. This ongoing “war” over technology reflects deeper issues of digital sovereignty and global power dynamics between the U.S. and China.

Opposers have major concerns over government control and free speech

The directive for ByteDance to divest TikTok could lead to one of the most complex transactions in tech history, given the app's massive user base and operational scale. If ByteDance fails to meet the divestment deadline, TikTok could be effectively banned from major app stores and lose web hosting in the U.S.

This move has sparked significant backlash, including from entities like the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that such a ban sets a troubling precedent for excessive government control over social media.[3]

TikTok also plans to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds, reflecting a broader debate over free speech[4] and regulation of digital platforms.

Critics, including some U.S. senators, fear that the bill grants overly broad authority, potentially threatening Americans' First Amendment rights and setting a global precedent that other nations might follow, thereby impacting digital freedom worldwide.

About the author
Ugnius Kiguolis
Ugnius Kiguolis - The mastermind

Ugnius Kiguolis is a professional malware analyst who is also the founder and the owner of 2-Spyware. At the moment, he takes over as Editor-in-chief.

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