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TikTok sale-or-ban bill heads to Biden's desk

Illustration of an exclamation point in the style of the TikTok logo.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to force ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban, setting up a lengthy legal battle.

Why it matters: The bill puts the app that 170 million Americans use for entertainment, business and advocacy at risk, threatens other companies and escalates U.S.-China tensions.

  • The legislation gives ByteDance up to a year to sell TikTok.

Yes, but: TikTok says it will sue on First Amendment grounds and that those court proceedings will be a long process, according to an internal memo viewed by Axios. That could delay the impact on Americans.

  • TikTok's value has skyrocketed because of its user base and algorithm, and the company has maintained it doesn't see a sale as feasible the way the bill is written and that it would be impossible to carry out.
  • The Chinese government has also signaled it won't allow a forced sale of TikTok.

The other side: Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the TikTok bill co-sponsor, said he assumes ByteDance and the Chinese government are "rational actors" and will move to sell.

  • The app's "maximum value is now, and the longer that they wait until the Supreme Court ultimately says, 'Yeah, the bill was constitutional,' then the value of the property goes down significantly."

State of play: The Senate passed the foreign aid and national security package that included the TikTok bill by a 79-18 vote.

  • President Biden has said he will sign the package "immediately"once it lands on his desk.

What they're saying: There has been broad, bipartisan support to restrict TikTok on Capitol Hill and across presidential administrations, but civil liberties groups are sounding the alarm.

  • "This is still nothing more than an unconstitutional ban in disguise," ACLU senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff said in a statement, adding the bill "will almost certainly be struck down in court."

What's next: The bill heads to Biden's desk, and TikTok is expected to file suit as soon as possible.

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