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in the Digital Age

U.S. House to vote on TikTok crackdown; fate uncertain in Senate

By David Shepardson | REUTERS

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill on Wednesday that would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the short-video app used by about 170 million Americans or face a ban.

The vote is expected around 10 a.m. under fast-track rules that require support by two-thirds of House members for the measure to pass.

The vote comes just over a week since the bill was proposed and after one public hearing with little debate. The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week voted 50-0 in favor of the bill, setting it up for a vote before the full House.

The FBI, Justice Department and Office of the director of national intelligence held a classified briefing for House members on Tuesday.

“We’ve answered a lot of questions from members. We had a classified briefing today. So that members can see even more details about what’s at risk and how the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) can jeopardize the risk to American families,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

Tiktok CEO Shou Zi Chew will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday on a previously scheduled trip to talk to senators, a source briefed on the matter said.

“This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States,” the company said. “The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression,” it added.

Some opponents of the legislation, including Democratic Representative Maxwell Frost, think the bill will pass in the House. Frost said many lawmakers who will vote for the bill are motivated by a desire to protect users, which he supports. Frost was among four lawmakers out of the 432-member House that held a press conference opposing the bill.

“The problem is the process here, the fact that it’s been steamrolled and people really can’t digest the consequences,” Frost said. “I would like to see TikTok ownership changed, but not at the expense of our First Amendment rights, business owners and content creators.”

The fate of the legislation is uncertain in the U.S. Senate, where some senators want to take a different approach.

President Joe Biden said last week that he would sign the bill.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the goal is ending Chinese ownership – not banning TikTok. “Do we want TikTok, as a platform, to be owned by an American company or owned by China? Do we want the data from TikTok — children’s data, adults’ data — to be going, to be staying here in America or going to China?”

It is unclear if China would approve any sale or if TikTok could be divested in six months
The bill would give ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok. If it failed to do so, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet’s Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat but was blocked by the courts. In recent days he had raised concerns about a ban.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler

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