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House passes bill to force sale of TikTok to Chinese owner or ban app| GuyWhoKnowsThings

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill with broad bipartisan support that would force TikTok's Chinese owner to sell the popular video app or be banned in the United States.

The move intensifies a standoff between Beijing and Washington over control of technologies that could affect national security, free speech and the social media industry.

Republican leaders rushed the bill through the House with limited debate, and it passed on a lopsided 352-65 vote, reflecting broad support for legislation that would directly target China in an election year.

The action occurred despite TikTok's efforts to mobilize its 170 million American users against the measure, and amid the Biden administration's push to persuade lawmakers that Chinese ownership of the platform poses serious national security risks to the United States.

The result was a bipartisan coalition behind the measure that included Republicans, who challenged former President Donald J. Trump in supporting it, and Democrats, who also supported a bill that President Biden has said he would sign.

The bill faces a difficult path to passage in the Senate, where Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has not committed to putting it to a vote and where some lawmakers have vowed to fight it. And even if it passes the Senate and becomes law, it will likely face legal challenges.

But Wednesday's vote was the first time a full chamber of Congress approved a measure that could broadly ban TikTok for consumers. The app has been under threat since 2020, with lawmakers increasingly arguing that Beijing's relationship with TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, poses national security risks. The bill aims to get ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners within six months. The president would approve the sale if it resolved national security concerns. If that sale did not occur, the application would be banned.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who is among the lawmakers leading the bill, said on the floor before the vote that it “forces TikTok to break with the Chinese Communist Party.”

“This is a common sense measure to protect our national security,” he said.

TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said in a statement that the “House process was secret and the bill was blocked for a reason: it's a ban.”

“We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to its constituents and realize the impact on the economy (seven million small businesses) and the 170 million Americans who use our service,” he added.

If the bill were to become law, it would likely deepen the cold war between the United States and China over control of important technologies.

On Wednesday, before the House vote, Beijing condemned the impulse of American legislators and rejected the idea that TikTok was a danger to the United States. In a daily press briefing, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, accused Washington of “resorting to hegemonic measures when fair competition could not succeed.”

Biden has announced limitations on how American financial firms can invest in Chinese companies and has restricted the sale of Americans' sensitive data, such as location and health information, to data brokers that could sell it to China. Platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are blocked in China, and Beijing said last year it would oppose the sale of TikTok.

TikTok has said it has done everything it can to protect US users' data and provide third-party oversight of the platform, and that no government can influence the company's recommendation model. He has also said there is no evidence that Beijing used TikTok to obtain data from American users or to influence Americans' opinions, two of the concerns lawmakers have cited.

Tik Tok urged users to call their representatives last week to protest the bill in an unusually aggressive move for a technology company, saying: “This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a complete ban on TikTok in the United States.”

TikTok has spent more than $1 billion on a sprawling plan known as Project Texas that aims to handle sensitive U.S. user data separately from the rest of the company's operations. That plan has been for several years under review by a panel known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS.

Two of the lawmakers behind the bill, Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, said last week that lawmakers were acting because CFIUS “has not resolved the problem.”

The bill created strange bedfellows in the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and former House speaker, sat in the chamber nodding along with far-right Republicans like Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, as they described their support for the bill. At one point, she stood up and crossed to the Republican side of the aisle to confer with Rep. Chip Roy, a far-right Republican from Texas who had openly supported the bill on the floor.

Several Republicans and Democrats expressed opposition to the bill based on concerns about free speech and the popularity of TikTok in the United States. Some legal experts have said that if the bill were to become law, it would likely face First Amendment scrutiny in the courts.

Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Florida, said Tuesday that “I'm not just a no, I'm an absolute no.” He said the legislation was an infringement on First Amendment rights. “I hear all the time from students getting information, the truth of what has happened in this country, from content creators on TikTok.” He said he was concerned about Americans' data, but that “this bill doesn't solve that problem.”

There is also a chance that even if the bill is signed and survives court challenges, it could fall apart under a new administration. Trump, who attempted to ban TikTok or force its sale in 2020, publicly reversed his position on the app over the past week. In a television appearance on Monday, Trump said the app was a national security threat but that banning it would help Facebook, a platform the former president criticized.

“There are a lot of little kids on TikTok who would go crazy without it,” he said.

The Trump administration had threatened to remove TikTok from US app stores if ByteDance did not sell its stake in the app. ByteDance even seemed willing to sell a stake in the app to Walmart and Oracle, where executives were close to Trump.

That plan backfired in federal court. Several judges blocked Trump's proposed ban from taking effect.

The Biden administration has attempted to resort to a legislative solution. The White House provided “technical assistance” to Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi as they drafted their bill, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing last week. When the bill was introduced, a National Security Council spokesperson quickly called the legislation “an important and welcome step to address” the threat of technology that endangers Americans' sensitive data.

The administration has repeatedly sent national security officials to Capitol Hill to privately defend the legislation and offer dire warnings about the risks of current ownership of TikTok. The White House briefed lawmakers ahead of the 50-0 committee vote last week that advanced the bill to the House floor.

On Tuesday, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice spoke to lawmakers in a classified briefing about national security concerns related to TikTok.

Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Krishnamoorthi had previously sponsored a bill intended to prohibit Tik Tok. The latest bill has been seen as something of a last stand against the company for Gallagher, who recently said he would not run for a fifth term because “the drafters intended for citizens to serve in Congress for a season and then return to Congress.” their private affairs. lives.”

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