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TikTok is threatened with a ban or sale in the USA

TikTok in the focus of US politics: If parent company ByteDance does not sell TikTok, the popular social media app might be banned.
TikTok Office Los Angeles

Just a week ago, it was reported that a new bill would force ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a ban in the US. Now the bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support, with a vote of 352-65. The next stop is the Senate. Senator Rand Paul opposes the ban, so perhaps there is still hope. However, if the bill passes, President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill. Ironically, the Biden re-election campaign has also been running on TikTok for a month.

In 2020, several US companies were interested in taking over TikTok’s global business, including Microsoft. TikTok is the global counterpart to the Chinese social network Douyin. But the Chinese authorities rejected such a sale and now we are back in the same place. The bill would require ByteDance to sell within six months. According to this, US companies would be prohibited from offering ByteDance apps in their app stores and web hosting services. In other words, TikTok would be banned from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

The process is far from over and there are still many legal hurdles to overcome. Last year, the state of Montana banned TikTok, but a few months later a federal judge overturned the ban. And that wasn’t even the first time a ban was overturned. Of course, ByteDance and the Chinese authorities will push for a different approach.

TikTok is one of the most popular apps worldwide. It reached 1 billion monthly users in 2021 and was the first app to reach $10 billion in in-app spending last year. However, TikTok is not the only app under fire: the so-called Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act could also affect WeChat (which is owned by the tech giant Tencent).

But there are also several organizations in the USA that are against the ban. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Democracy (CDC) and the Fight for the Future (FFT) organization also oppose it and have written to the Energy and Commerce Committee on the matter of the House of Representatives. The EFF and ACLU have even written a letter advocating overturning the ban in Montana.

“Instead of passing this overreaching and misguided bill, Congress should prevent any company—regardless of where it is based—from collecting massive amounts of our detailed personal data, which is then made available to data brokers, U.S. government agencies, and even foreign adversaries, China included. We shouldn’t waste time arguing over a law that will get thrown out for silencing the speech of millions of Americans. Instead, Congress should solve the real problem of out-of-control privacy invasions by enacting comprehensive consumer data privacy legislation.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

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Toni Hobrecht
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