US Congress Chamber wants to pass law against Tiktok – threat of ban

The US House of Representatives wants to force the Chinese owner of Tiktok to sell the popular video platform by law. In the bill that the House of Congress wanted to vote on on Wednesday, the parent company Bytedance is threatened with a ban on the app in the USA if it does not sell it within 180 days. Bytedance is suspected of giving the Chinese Communist Party access to user data.

In a rare act of bipartisan unity, the anti-Tiktok legislative initiative is supported in the House of Representatives by both the dominant opposition Republicans and President Joe Biden's Democrats. The adoption of the draft by the chamber (scheduled for around 3 p.m. CET) was therefore considered certain.

However, the approval required by the Senate – the other chamber of Congress – is also uncertain. Some influential senators have spoken out against the bill. The Republican ex-president and expected renewed presidential candidate Donald Trump also opposed a Tiktok ban just this week.

The White House, however, has already announced that Biden will sign the bill when it is passed by both chambers of Congress and thus bring it into force. Beijing criticized the proposed law on Wednesday as “bullying behavior” and vaguely warned that the move would “inevitably cause trouble for the United States.”

The proposed law would give the US President the authority to classify other apps as threats to national security if they are controlled by a country that the US government considers hostile.

The US federal authorities have banned Tiktok from work cell phones because of data protection concerns. However, previous initiatives to ban the app nationwide had come to nothing.

Biden also made his own debut just four weeks ago on the platform, which is particularly popular among young people and has around 170 million users in the USA. In a video posted by Biden's campaign team, the president spoke about the election campaign and the “Super Bowl”, the final of the US football league.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Bytedance saw the Biden video as a reassuring sign that Tiktok was not threatened in the USA – and was even more surprised when the legislative initiative became more concrete in the House of Representatives.

Tiktok boss Shou Zi Chew traveled to Washington and tried to prevent the draft from being passed at the last minute. “This latest legislation, rushed through with unprecedented speed and without a useful public hearing, raises serious constitutional concerns,” Tiktok executive Michael Beckerman wrote in a letter to House representatives seen by AFP.

A law passed last year in the US state of Montana to ban Tiktok was stopped by a federal court, which saw it as a possible threat to freedom of expression. Tiktok also denies any ties to the Chinese government. The company also assures that it has restructured itself so that user data remains in the USA.

Trump, meanwhile, made a 180-degree turn in his attitude towards Tiktok. During his presidency, he campaigned to take control of the app away from Bytedance. On Monday, however, he spoke on CNBC against a Tiktok ban, arguing that it would only strengthen the US online giant Meta and its founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Trump accuses Zuckerberg of being hostile to him. In the interview, the ex-president described Facebook as the “enemy of the people” – a polemical label that he often uses for media that he dislikes. At the same time, the right-wing populist denied that he had only changed his stance on Tiktok because Bytedance investor Jeff Yass supported his election campaign with donations.

Tiktok has long since overtaken Facebook and Instagram in terms of usage times. Tiktok has more than a billion users worldwide.