House passes bill that could ban TikTok. Here's what happens next.

The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would require TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell it within 180 days or risk TikTok being banned from U.S. app stores and web hosting services.

The concern from lawmakers stems from ByteDance's connection with the Chinese government, which could reportedly demand access to U.S. TikTok users' data. TikTok has around 170 million monthly users in the U.S. alone.

"This process was secret, and the bill was jammed through for one reason: It's a ban," a TikTok spokesperson told Yahoo News. "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."

Participants hold signs in support of TikTok outside the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday morning
Participants hold signs in support of TikTok outside the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday morning. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Who opposes the ban

Fifty Democrats and 15 Republicans voted against the bill.

Some lawmakers — including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Robert Garcia, who spoke during the hearing — oppose the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act because they don't believe TikTok is an immediate security threat, and they think a ban could negatively affect the economy and take away a major platform for social connection.

Democrat Rep. Jim Hines, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, voted against the bill. In a statement, he said, "I have more insight than most into the online threats posed by our adversaries. But one of the key differences between us and those adversaries is the fact that they shut down newspapers, broadcast stations and social media platforms."

Who supports the ban

There were 352 votes for the bill in the House vote. Last week, the bill was unanimously approved by a House committee.

Supporters of the legislation, including Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, have emphasized that it’s not about banning TikTok but about separating the app from ByteDance.

There was a 40-minute debate on Wednesday, with each party getting roughly half of that time for floor remarks.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington state, who was in charge of the committee that advanced the bill after its introduction last week, kicked off the debate and pushed for the bill to be passed. She referenced the in-app pop-up messages TikTok used last week to urge users to contact their representatives as evidence of the app’s influence over Americans.

What happens next

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where experts say its fate is still being determined. There is no specific date set yet for the Senate to deliberate.

President Biden said that if Congress passes the bill, he will sign it. He joined TikTok in February.

In March 2023, senators unveiled a bipartisan bill to encourage Biden to ban TikTok and other foreign-linked producers of electronics or software that the Commerce Department could deem a national security risk.

If the Senate approves the bill, it would set a six-month deadline for ByteDance to sell its stake in the U.S. version of TikTok or the app would be banned. The sale must be to a buyer that is approved by the U.S. government and must guarantee that ByteDance has no control over TikTok or its algorithms for U.S. users.

If ByteDance cannot or refuses to sell TikTok after six months, it will be illegal for app stores and web hosting companies to distribute or update the app. Any company that works with TikTok or offers downloadable versions of TikTok to U.S. users can be fined by the Justice Department.

Will the bill pass in the Senate?

It’s unclear where the Senate stands on the issue. Republican Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, has been pledging in interviews that he believes a TikTok ban would violate the Constitution. Paul’s opposition blocked the other bid to ban TikTok in 2023.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been open about his long-standing support for banning any apps that are deemed to be under the influence of China or Russia.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also told outlets he will have to consult with committee chairs to determine the bill’s path. As of Wednesday, it’s not clear if he has committed to bringing the ban up for a vote in the Senate. However, in February, he did say that he supported consideration of a national TikTok ban.

What this means for American TikTok users

If the bill is signed into law, app stores like Apple's or Google's can face fines of $5,000 per user of a banned app. In the case of TikTok, Apple and Google could potentially face up to $850 billion in fines each.

If the ban goes into effect, and you already have TikTok on your phone, the restriction on available updates for the app is likely to degrade access and quality of the app.

But individual users will not face punishment under the bill unless someone is engaged in "sabotage or subversion" by using the technology that causes "catastrophic effects" on U.S. infrastructure such as "interfering in or altering the result of" a federal election.

Would it be easy for ByteDance to sell TikTok?

TikTok would carry an enormous price tag due to its hundreds of millions of U.S.-based users. It’s unclear whether, if forced to sell, ByteDance would sell the app’s global presence or just the U.S.-based operation.

Tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Meta might be able to afford to buy TikTok (Microsoft nearly did in 2020), but it goes against the Biden administration’s attempts to block those companies from becoming even bigger.

China might also not let the sale even happen. In 2020, when there were first talks of selling TikTok, China placed export restrictions on technology.

Trump flip-flops on a ban

Former President Donald Trump reversed his opinion and now opposes a ban on TikTok — conflicting with the overarching Republican consensus on Capitol Hill. President Joe Biden, on the other hand, has endorsed the bill.

On CNBC earlier this week, Trump said that he agreed TikTok is a national security threat but would not support banning the app because it could help Facebook, which Trump referred to as “the enemy of the people.”

During the House vote, Rep. Thomas Massie agreed with Trump’s sentiment about Facebook.

“It could also be named the Facebook Protection and Enhancement Act, because it’s not the American people who are going to benefit most from this. It will be Facebook,” Massie said.“Their stock is going to go up.”

China’s response

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned that a potential TikTok ban would “come back to the bite the United States,” The Hill reported on Wednesday.

“Although the United States has never found evidence that TikTok threatens US national security, it has not stopped suppressing TikTok,” Wenbin said. “This kind of bullying behavior that cannot win in fair competition disrupts companies’ normal business activity, damages the confidence of international investors in the investment environment, and damages the normal international economic and trade order.”