TikTok Ban Advances Through U.S. House of Representatives

WASHINGTON—The Associated Press reports that a bill that could consequently ban the popular social media platform TikTok has advanced through the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the wire service, the bill proceeded with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.

The bill passed on a vote of 352-65-1, with Republicans who control the majority in the House stoking fears of censorship and Sinophobia—or the fear of Chinese influence—among stakeholders.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously, 50-0, to advance the bill to the floor of the House.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, supported the bill, indicating that it's needed to protect national security.

Biden's challenger in the 2024 presidential election, former Republican President Donald Trump, came out against the bill. This is ironic given that during his tenure at the White House, Trump advocated for similar measures to block TikTok. 

Trump urged members of his party to vote against the measure, additionally citing claims of censorship online. Meanwhile, he railed against Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and its chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg. 

Trump's flip-flopping on the issue of banning TikTok is due to one of his campaign contributors, Jeff Yass, having an ownership stake in the Beijing-based ByteDance, which currently owns TikTok's U.S. and global operations.

According to Forbes, Yass is a billionaire with a net worth of $27.6 billion. He is the managing director of the Philadelphia-based Susquehanna International Group (SIG), which reportedly owns 15 percent of ByteDance. Yass has a personal share of 7 percent.

Despite this, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Currently, controversial right-wing libertarian Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is expected to filibuster the bill because he believes the measure of banning TikTok is unconstitutional.

The bill is officially called the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. It prevents the app stores from Apple and Google and any web hosting service from providing availability for ByteDance-owned platforms like TikTok. 

TikTok would be banned under the act unless ByteDance sheds its ownership stake due to concerns that the company is controlled by a foreign adversary—the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.

The act expands the president's power to designate certain social media applications that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary as a threat to national security. Designated applications would be prohibited from app store availability and web hosting services unless they sever ties to the entities reportedly subject to the control of a foreign adversary through divestment.

Simply put, the bill's proponents want to compel TikTok's owner to sell the U.S. operation for the app to a domestic technology company.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and dozens of civil society groups oppose the bill and its potential passage.

“Make no mistake: the House’s TikTok bill is a ban, and it’s blatant censorship," said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the ACLU's national affiliate. "Today, the House of Representatives voted to violate the First Amendment rights of more than half of the country. The Senate must reject this unconstitutional and reckless bill.”

ACLU also signed a joint coalition letter urging opposition to the bill. The signed groups include the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, the conservative-leaning FreedomWorks, and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.
Adult performers and companies should take note—despite a strict anti-nudity policy, adult content creators and studios have seen success in posting and marketing their content on TikTok through suggestive but safe-for-work strategies.