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TikTok Pushes Back Against Proposed Sell-Off Bill, Ahead of House Vote This Week

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Things are certainly heating up for TikTok ahead of a House vote this week which will decide whether the latest push to force the app into U.S. ownership moves ahead.

Last week, a bipartisan bill was put forward which, in essence, seeks to force TikTok into U.S. ownership, or face a ban in the region, due to national security concerns. The full proposal aims to curb the spread of “foreign adversary controlled” apps and websites, with the intention being that the U.S. Government would then have more control over the usage of apps that could potentially share information with enemies of the state.

The bill was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and will be voted on by the House on Wednesday. If it passes that test, it then moves onto the Senate, before it could finally be enacted by the President.

And President Biden has said that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk, which has clearly put TikTok on high alert, as it works to save its U.S. business.

This week, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is planning to visit Capitol Hill, as part of TikTok’s broader push to sway U.S. senators ahead of the vote. TikTok has also been sending notifications to all of its U.S. users, urging them to call their local senator, though that particular push may have backfired, considering the key concern that TikTok can influence U.S. voters.

TikTok ban

Like, trying to ease concerns about the app’s influence by prompting users to act seems to inflame that particular sore spot, rather than reduce it.

TikTok’s also planning to send an army of content creators and lobbyists to Washington in varying capacity, as it continues to publicly spar with Senators over their claims.

At the same time, officials from the FBI, Justice Department and U.S. intelligence community will meet with senators on Tuesday to brief them about the potential risks posed by the app, while the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has published a new report which claims that the C.C.P. has indeed used TikTok to influence recent U.S. elections.

Yet, TikTok has also gained some powerful support from influential political voices, even if their reasoning is not exactly in line with the impetus of the bill.

X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk has voiced his opposition to the proposed action, because he believes that it’s actually about broader “censorship and control”, and would apply to more than just foreign-owned apps.

Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has agreed that TikTok does pose a national security threat, but at the same time, he doesn’t want Meta having more influence.

As per Trump:

“Without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people.”

Trump initially proposed a TikTok ban in 2020, when he was President, though in that instance, Trump claimed that it was in retaliation for China’s failure to contain the spread of COVID-19, not for national security reasons.

Both motivations here seem less focused on the main concern at hand, as proposed by the bill. But either way, their influence could well sway the final vote, and see TikTok continue operation in the U.S.

Which remains a good chance either way, because the bill doesn’t stipulate a ban of TikTok, as such, but it would force it into U.S. ownership. TikTok owner ByteDance would then have 165 days to complete a sell-off, and given the billions at stake, that, presumably, would be the more likely outcome, which would mean that TikTok remains operational either way.

But it’s become a political football of sorts, with the Chinese Government viewing action against TikTok as an affront to Chinese businesses more broadly, which could lead to an increase in sanctions from China, impacting U.S. trade.

It’s a complex situation, especially when you also consider that U.S. social apps are effectively banned from China for the same reason, enabling the Chinese Government to maintain control over their citizens’ data and usage.

In that sense, a move against TikTok makes sense. And when you also consider the ongoing tensions between the two nations, due to China’s actions in the South China Sea, and its expanding ties with Russia, there is clear reason for concern in an adversarial sense.

So will TikTok get forced into a sell-off, leaving it primed for a U.S. corporate to scoop it up?

It still feels unlikely, and with Trump opposing the bill, and the Republicans controlling the Senate, I would expect that if it does clear this next hurdle, it’ll still get voted down along party lines.

But there are a lot of concerns being raised, and the intelligence community is making a big push, as we head towards the next election.

Even if the app does get a reprieve, the latest push underlines the looming concerns about the app.



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