House easily passes bill that could ban TikTok

House easily passes bill that could ban TikTok
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The House passed a bill that could ban TikTok in a 352-65 vote Wednesday, putting the spotlight on the Senate on how to handle the controversial legislation that has support from President Biden.

One lawmaker voted present.

The Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act would force ByteDance, TikTok’s China-based parent company, to divest the app within roughly five months of going into effect, or be banned from U.S. app stores and web hosting services.

The bill passed quickly through the House in a floor vote scheduled less than a week after it was first introduced by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the top lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

House Republicans invoked a special rule for the vote that required two-thirds majority to pass — rather than the simple majority needed for most House bills — to expedite the process.

Republicans also raced to pass the bill in the face of opposition from former President Trump, who tried and failed to ban TikTok as president before reversing his position.

Supporters of the bill say it aims to curb national security posed by ByteDance, which they say could share sensitive data from American users with the Chinese government.

TikTok has pushed back on accusations that it poses national security risks and strongly opposed the legislation.

A TikTok spokesperson slammed the House for a “rushed” process on the bill.

“This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it’s a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service,” the spokesperson said.

Although the ban passed with bipartisan support, there was also vocal opposition on both sides of the aisle.

“I am highly concerned about our data being collected and being misused by both foreign adversaries and also domestic companies. But this bill does not fix that problem,” Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) said Tuesday.

He was also among Democrats who raised concerns about how the bill could infringe on users’ free speech rights. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University also raised those concerns about the bill.

Trump, the presumptive GOP 2024 presidential nominee, was the strongest force from the right who opposed the bill. He cast his opposition around how a ban might benefit rival social media company Facebook.

Trump’s opposition to a possible TikTok ban came after he met with Jeff Yass, a major GOP donor and investor in TikTok. Trump said Yass did not bring up TikTok during the conversation. 

Biden said he would sign the bill if passed by Congress, leaving it now up to the Senate to act.

It is unclear if the Senate will bring up the legislation.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate “will review the legislation when it comes over from the House.”

Gallagher said Tuesday, ahead of the vote, that there’s a “lot of interest” and praised Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively, for their work.

“They clearly understand the threat that the current ownership structure poses, and so I look to work with my Senate colleagues as this moves forward,” Gallagher said.

In a statement released after the vote, Rubio and Warner expressed support for the House bill and highlighted the lower chamber’s strong bipartisan support for the measure.

“We are united in our concern about the national security threat posed by TikTok – a platform with enormous power to influence and divide Americans whose parent company ByteDance remains legally required to do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party,” they said.

“We were encouraged by today’s strong bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, and look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law.”

Warner said in a statement last week he has “some concerns about the constitutionality of an approach that names specific companies.”

The senator added that he has “tremendous respect for Congressman Gallagher,” and he’s “going to be taking a close look at this bill.”

If the law is enacted, it may still face constitutional challenges like other bills that sought to ban TikTok before it.

Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi said that the way it is drafted goes around issues that were brought up in other bills, highlighting the choice it gives ByteDance to divest TikTok. But experts said the bill would likely face the same fate.

Susan Ariel Aaronson, a research professor of international affairs at George Washington University, said the bill is “contradictory to the rule of law.”

She also said it doesn’t address the root of the problem, and banning one firm will likely lead to another popping up in the future without addressing the “real problem.”

Sarah Kreps, director of the Tech Policy Institute at Cornell University, said she isn’t confident the bill will “actually sidestep the free speech concerns” raised in previous attempts.

“ByteDance has said they will not divest TikTok, so I have no reason to think they would exercise that option,” she said.

Updated at 11:44 a.m.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.