House passes bill to ban or force sale of TikTok

TikTok Credit: Solen Feyissa|Wikimedia|CC BY-SA 2.0

The House has passed a bill that could ban the massively popular Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from being used in the U.S.

Titled the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” the measure passed in an overwhelming bipartisan 352-65 vote. Though the bill does not ban TikTok outright, it prohibits “distributing, maintaining, or providing internet hosting services” to any app controlled by an entity determined to be a foreign adversary. 

If made law, the bill will force TikTok’s Chinese owner to either sell the platform or face a U.S. ban. This means that if the company is sold to an American owner, it would be allowed to continue to operate in the U.S. However, if TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, retains ownership of TikTok, U.S. users will not be allowed to use the app.

House members supporting the bill voiced their concerns that TikTok poses a threat to national security and could also be acting as a propaganda outlet for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Some opponents of the bill, meanwhile, voiced concerns that the bill could curb First Amendment rights. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, called the TikTok ban a “Trojan horse,” saying it gives the government too much power to determine which platforms Americans can access. 

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told CNA that he believes “Catholics should resolutely stand against TikTok, not simply to protect Catholics, but to safeguard the well-being of everyone else as well.” 

“Congress needs to ban TikTok,” he said. “It is not only a pernicious, predatory force that exploits young people, especially girls, it is inextricably tied to the Chinese Communist Party. As such, its content is predictably manipulative and seductive.”

The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration, where some senators have previously expressed concerns with TikTok. In a January Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused the CCP of targeting American children to promote harmful content through TikTok.

“If you look at what is on TikTok in China, you are promoting to kids science and math videos and educational videos and you limit the amount of time kids can be on TikTok. In the United States, you are promoting to kids self-harm videos and anti-Israel propaganda. Why is there such a dramatic difference?” Cruz said. 

President Joe Biden has signaled he would sign the bill into law if passed by both the House and Senate, according to reporting by Politico.

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