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The US House votes to ban TikTok - but it's not as bad as you think

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The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that calls upon TikTok to divest itself from Chinese owner ByteDance or face a nationwide ban. The bipartisan bill comes from the leaders of the House Select Committee on China, and aims to curb the possibility that TikTok could be used by the Chinese government to influence US politics or gather information about US citizens. While the bill’s passage is certainly a step toward a possible ban, there are numerous, complicated steps remaining, and in the end, an outright ban seems unlikely. 

The next step for a TikTok ban would be the passage of a companion measure in the US Senate, then reconciliation between those two bills before the law is sent to the President to be signed. There is no companion bill in the Senate, so there won’t be any imminent vote, and no law will be sent to President Biden’s desk any time soon. 

The House bill also gives TikTok five months to comply with government demands, so even if the law was passed today, there would still be a five-month reprieve while TikTok and ByteDance decide the next move. 

TikTok is incorporated in the US and claims that it does not share any information with the Chinese government. No incidents of information sharing have been cited by TikTok’s critics. 

Further, if the US does pass a law aimed at TikTok and ByteDance, the company would likely sue and force the US to defend the law in court. That hasn’t gone well for lawmakers, thus far. Every time a proposed TikTok ban has come before a Federal judge, it has been rejected.

That does not mean there's no reason for concern among TikTok fans and followers. While there is no bill in the US Senate aimed at a TikTok ban, the US House moved unusually swiftly in crafting this bill and then passing the law with a large amount of bipartisan support. The TikTok ban does not have the same robust support in the Senate as it did in the House of Representatives, however, so a fast track for legislation seems unlikely. 

Though the House bill has support from both Republicans and Democrats, the party presidential candidates have taken opposing sides on the idea. President Biden has already said he would sign a TikTok ban law, while President Trump has said he opposes a TikTok ban. 

In response to the vote, TikTok issued the following statement: “This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it’s a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service.”

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