US House of Representatives Approves TikTok Sell-Off Proposal

TikTok is gearing up for a legal battle in the U.S., after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a new bill that would force a sell-off of the Chinese-owned app due to national security concerns.

To recap, last week, a bipartisan bill was put forward which seeks to force TikTok into U.S. ownership, or face a ban in the region. The intention of the proposal is to limit the impact and influence of “foreign adversary controlled” apps and websites, and the initial proposal was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week.

Today, the House voted 352 to 65 in favor of the bill, which will now see it move onto the Senate for a final vote. If approved there, the measure would then be presented to U.S. President Joe Biden for endorsement, and Biden has already stated that he will indeed sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

So not great for TikTok, which is very keen to maintain its Chinese ownership, though it is also worth noting that TikTok would be unlikely to disappear as such, even if the bill is approved, as it would then have 165 days to complete a sell-off in order to remain in operation in the U.S.

And given the billions at stake, that, presumably, would be the more likely outcome, so TikTok will probably remain as we know it either way.

But right now at least, TikTok’s Chinese ownership is gearing up to combat the proposal, with the company releasing this 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.

One of the key points of contention among senators has been TikTok’s response to the proposal, with TikTok continually framing it as a ban in its communications with users and the public.

TikTok ban

Which, technically, it isn’t, and some have criticized the app for misleading its users about the intention of the bill, in order to politicize the process.

To be clear, the C.C.P. is absolutely in support of TikTok fighting back, with Chinese Government officials seeing the proposal as an overreach, and an attack on Chinese businesses, in restricting their capacity to operate in the U.S.  

The C.C.P. has already taken issue with the U.S. for trade sanctions in technological development, with the White House seeking to limit China’s access to American-built semiconductors, which are critical to the development of AI. The U.S. has also urged other nations to limit China’s access to semiconductor technology as well, and this new push against TikTok is another fracture in the often tense trade relationship between the two nations.

As such, the C.C.P. will be keen to oppose the sell-off push, and may look to implement retaliatory sanctions if it is enacted.

But then again, Chinese operating laws make it virtually impossible for U.S.-owned social apps to operate in China, for much the same reasons that the U.S. is now looking to pressure TikTok.

So really, I’m not sure that the C.C.P. has much of a standing in this sense.

Though it may not actually make it through the Senate either way.

Former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for the upcoming Presidential election, has voiced his opposition to the push, due to the fact, Trump says, that it would give Meta more power: “And I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people”.

Trump, who was banned from Facebook after the Capitol Riots in, 2021, clearly still has a personal grudge against Zuck and Co., and while that doesn’t relate to the impetus of the proposed bill, it will likely sway Republican senators in how they vote on the issue. And with Republicans holding the balance of power in the Senate, that could see it voted down along party lines.

If it does pass, however, that could spark geopolitical tensions, with China seeing this as a public rebuke, which could prompt significant response.

So TikTok, the app which has been best known for popularizing happy dance trends, could be at the center of international political tensions.

Crazy times.

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