US Senate Passes Bill to Force TikTok Divestment Amid National Security Concerns

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Washington: The US Senate passed a bill by a wide margin on Tuesday night that would necessitate the divestment of TikTok by its owner, Chinese tech company ByteDance, within the next nine to twelve months, or face a ban in the United States.

The legislation, which was also approved by the US House of Representatives on Saturday and is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden, reflects concerns among lawmakers regarding potential Chinese access to American data and surveillance via the popular short video app.

Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, emphasized the importance of the bill, stating that allowing the Chinese Communist Party to control such a widely used American app was shortsighted.

In response to the Senate vote, the Chinese foreign ministry referred to its previous objections to similar legislation passed by the House of Representatives in March, arguing that there was no evidence of TikTok posing a threat to US national security.

The battle over TikTok, utilized by 170 million Americans, is emblematic of the broader technology and internet conflict between the US and China. Last week, Apple was instructed by Beijing to remove Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its Chinese App Store over national security concerns.

TikTok intends to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds, and users are expected to pursue legal action. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concerns about excessive government control over social media platforms and warned of potential global repercussions if the US were to ban a foreign-owned platform.

While TikTok asserts it does not share US user data with the Chinese government, the company plans to contest the legislation in court.

The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 79 to 18, attaching it to a measure providing military aid primarily for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The fast-track approval of the TikTok divestment directive underscores its urgency.

Experts anticipate that the legislation will grant the Biden administration stronger legal authority to ban TikTok if ByteDance fails to divest the app.

Once signed into law, ByteDance will have 270 days to divest TikTok’s US operations, with a possible three-month extension if progress toward a deal is evident.

However, some senators express concerns about potential violations of Americans’ First Amendment rights and argue that the bill effectively amounts to a TikTok ban.

The complexity and expense of such a divestment process, as well as its potential implications, are points of contention among lawmakers. Nevertheless, the bill may become a significant issue in the upcoming presidential campaign, with Republican candidate Donald Trump advocating for a TikTok ban.

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