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TikTok comes one step closer to a US ban

The US Senate has approved a bill that would effectively ban TikTok from the US unless Chinese owner ByteDance gives up its share of the immensely popular app.

Social video platform TikTok has experienced explosive growth since it first appeared in 2017, and is now said to have well over 1.5 billion users, with an estimated 170 million of them in the US.

Essentially, the bill says that TikTok has to find a new owner that is not based in a foreign adversarial country within the next 180 days or face a ban until it does comply. President Biden has committed to sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

Since 2020, several governments and organizations have banned, or considered banning, TikTok from their staff’s devices, but a complete ban of an internet app would be a first in the US.

For a long time now, TikTok has been battling to convince politicians that it operates independently of ByteDance, which allegedly has deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). For example, TikTok has repeatedly claimed the Chinese government has never demanded access to US data and that TikTok would not comply if it did.

While ByteDance denies any direct links to the Chinese Communist Party, a former executive at TikTok’s parent company claimed in court documents that the CCP had access to TikTok data, despite US storage of the data. The allegations came up in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed in May of 2023 in the San Francisco Superior Court.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights group based in the US, says it opposes this bill, mainly because it is afraid that TikTok will not be the last app to face this type of ban.

TikTok also encouraged its users and creators to express their opposition to the bill. Last week, the social media company said the bill would:

“Trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the US economy, annually.”

Chinese officials reportedly said the government would “firmly oppose” any forced sale of TikTok because it would “seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States.”

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Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.