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TikTok parent company under fire in new bill

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Mar 5, 2024
Illustration of the US Capitol with TikTok's logo.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A bipartisan House duo is going after TikTok's parent company to thwart national security concerns stemming from China.

The big picture: A bill introduced Tuesday by China Select Committee Chair Mike Gallagher and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi would make it illegal for app stores or web hosting service providers to distribute applications controlled by ByteDance.

  • The prohibition is meant to force ByteDance to divest its ownership of TikTok within 165 days.

ByteDance and TikTok are the only entities specifically named in the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, but a committee aide said the legislation is not just about those two.

  • The bill gives the president the authority to target other social media applications that are determined to be controlled by a foreign adversary.
  • Those applications would also face app store and web service hosting prohibitions unless their ties to entities controlled by foreign adversaries are severed.
  • An app is considered to be controlled by a foreign adversary if it is operated or controlled by an entity that has its headquarters, principal place of business or domicile in a foreign adversary country.

What they're saying: "This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it," a TikTok spokesperson said. "This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs."

What's next: The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it will mark up the bill Thursday.

  • More than a dozen lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are sponsoring the bill, and they're looking to get more support, according to a committee aide.
  • The committee will also mark up E&C Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ranking Member Frank Pallone's Protecting Americans' Data from Foreign Adversaries Act, which would prohibit data brokers from transferring sensitive data to foreign adversaries.
  • Other efforts to prohibit or ban TikTok have run into First Amendment violation concerns.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a comment from TikTok.

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