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TikTok faces ban in bipartisan bill if ByteDance doesn't divest ownership

A new bill would ban TikTok in the U.S. unless its China-based parent company ByteDance divests the social media platform amid concerns about its links to the Chinese Communist Party.

House lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a new bipartisan bill that would ban TikTok if its China-based parent company ByteDance doesn't divest its stake in the social media platform.

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act would require that TikTok be divested from ByteDance or other China-based companies within 180 days or else it would be banned from U.S. app stores and web hosting services. 

The bill was introduced by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who serve as the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the U.S. and Chinese Communist Party. 

"This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users," Gallagher said in a press release. "America's foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States. TikTok's time in the United States is over unless it ends its relationship with CCP-controlled ByteDance."

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"So long as it is owned by ByteDance and thus required to collaborate with the CCP, TikTok poses critical threats to our national security," Krishnamoorthi added. "Our bipartisan legislation would protect American social media users by driving the divestment of foreign adversary-controlled apps to ensure that Americans are protected from the digital surveillance and influence operations of regimes that could weaponize their personal data against them."

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act would also establish a process to ban other social media apps controlled by foreign adversaries unless they sever ties with the foreign adversary-controlled company. Further, it would require designated social media apps to provide users with a copy of their data in a format that can be imported into another app when they leave the platform.

The bill, which the select committee says had 18 bipartisan cosponsors at the time of its introduction, would be enforced against tech companies that operate app stores or provide web hosting services rather than individual users of apps like TikTok.

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TikTok has over 170 million users in the U.S. and the ties between parent company ByteDance and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have raised concerns that the massive social media platform could serve as a propaganda outlet for the CCP as well as undermine the mental health of users by surfacing addictive or harmful content in their feeds.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has previously denied that its parent company shares user data with the CCP.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a markup hearing for the bill that will be held Thursday morning. Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., signaled her support for legislative action against apps controlled by foreign adversaries like TikTok in announcing the hearing.

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"At our hearing last year with the CEO of TikTok, we saw a company that was repeatedly caught lying about its relationship with ByteDance and the Chinese Communist Party. It confirmed our worst fears – that applications controlled by foreign adversaries, like TikTok, are exploiting and weaponizing Americans' data and pose a clear national security threat to the United States," Rodgers said.

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