add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );House of Representatives Votes to Pass "TikTok Ban Bill" - BANG.

House of Representatives Votes to Pass "TikTok Ban Bill"

On March 5th, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” colloquially known as the “TikTok Ban Bill” in a decisive 352-65 bipartisan vote, where it now heads to the Senate.

The bill has made major headlines in the weeks since, as it would allow the federal government to demand TikTok’s parent company, the Chinese owned ByteDance, divest itself from the social media app or become prohibited in the United States.

The bill faces a tougher battle in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not committed to putting the bill to the floor for a vote. Coupled with the Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump’s, rescinded support for such a ban, the bill lacks the bipartisan support it previously enjoyed in the House.

However, President Biden has said he would sign the bill if put before him, meaning the bill is not dead yet.

Though the legislators who support the bill have TikTok in mind, the actual text of it gives great leeway to the executive for its enforcement. The bill would allow the executive branch to force a company to cease its operations if it finds the application to be working with foreign adversaries.

Any company that is determined to be a foreign adversary shall have six months to divest itself away from said adversary or be effectively banned in the States. In the possibility of ByteDance selling TikTok, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is already lining up potential buyers for the app.

The momentum to ban the app stems from a fear that TikTok's parent company ByteDance, a Chinese owned company, is susceptible to pressure from the Chinese government. Legislators view the Chinese government as a national threat and could demand ByteDance hand over American’s personal data that is collected by TikTok.

Thus, the passage of the bill marks the culmination of a multi-year-long effort, beginning with Donald Trump’s push to have the app banned back in 2020, only for it to be struck down by the courts.

The issue was picked back up in March of last year when TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi, testified before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, where he denied that American data was being shared with the Chinese government. Legislators were unassuaged by Mr. Zi’s comments, however, and in a rare display of modern bipartisanship, both aisles of Congress pushed to ban the app for potential national security issues.

The bill has faced major backlash since its passing as many fans and users of the app, of which there are around 170 million, have come out in its defense, citing the app’s use for content creators to make a living off of it, or for communities of people to connect with one another.

TikTok also attempted to mobilize its users to call their Representative and Senator to urge them not to pass the bill, a move which seemed to confirm the fears of Congressmen, as they report many of the phone calls came from children

Beyond Congress, many legal experts and organizations, such as the ACLU, have pointed out problems with the bill itself, and adverse legal consequences that stem from it. On the bill specifically, some experts believe it to be unconstitutional on the grounds that it targets a specific company, TikTok, which is named in the bill.

The more widespread criticism, however, comes from the potential First Amendment violations from the bill. The premise is that the government is attempting to censor a public forum for free expression that does not meet the strict scrutiny standard the courts typically use for laws relating to the First Amendment.

Such arguments have found purchase in lower state courts, such as Montana's failed attempted ban of TikTok in December of last year after an injunction was placed on it. Thus, even if the Senate does go through with the vote and brings it forward to President Biden, it is very likely the story does not end there as the ban will continue to fight its way through the courts.

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