The House of Representatives passed a bill that could ultimately result in the U.S. government banning TikTok. By a vote of 352-65, the bill was approved with bipartisan. The Senate will now take up the bill.

Legislative implications and process

The measure is officially named the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. It proposes a procedure for identifying social media apps under foreign adversary control and enforcing restrictions until the apps sever ties within 180 days. To reduce threats to national security, the legislation seeks to pressure ByteDance to divest TikTok.

Bipartisan alarm over national security threat

Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about TikTok, which is controlled by the Chinese corporation ByteDance, and how it could jeopardize national security in the United States. Lawmakers contend that the software might be used to obtain data from the United States and spread false information. 

House speaker Mike Johnson highlighted the nonpartisan attitude against China’s perceived dangers, saying, “Today’s bipartisan vote demonstrates Congress’ opposition to Communist China’s attempts to spy on and manipulate Americans.”

Controversial vote spurs debate

Even with support from both parties, several legislators had concerns. Both conservatives and progressives, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Marjorie Taylor Greene, raised concerns about the possible infringement on free expression and the effect on small businesses’ bottom lines. Citing concerns about government control over information accessibility, Representative Jim Himes said, “We trust our citizens to be worthy of their democracy.” Also, progressives, such as Mike Figueredo, who runs the YouTube channel The Humanist Report, claims that this is an effort to “regain control of the narrative” due to the waning influence traditional media outlets have on young people compared to TikTok.

Additionally, NPR reports that, “officials have not offered public evidence of the Chinese Communist Party using the app for surveillance or propaganda purposes.” However, the publication goes on to stay that it is “theoretically possible that Beijing could use TikTok to push its agenda.” Though, according to NPR, there is currently no evidence that Beijing is engaging in such tactics.

TikTok’s defense and international response

The CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, defended the app, highlighting security measures for user information and cautioning against rushing into legislation. Chinese authorities have denounced the measure and promised to protect the interests of Chinese businesses doing business outside the country.

As a reminder, the bill needs to pass through the U.S. Senate. President Joe Biden has expressed his support for banning TikTok, so if the Senate were to pass the bill, Joe Biden likely would sign the bill into law. Currently, there’s no timeframe for when the Senate will vote on the bill, so we will have to wait and see. We will keep you updated on this story as more unfolds.