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United States: after a vote in Congress, the threat of a ban on TikTok becomes clearer

The U.S. House of Representatives adopted Wednesday a bill that would ban TikTok in the United States if the social network does not cut ties with its parent company, ByteDance, and more largely with China.

This is a major development for the platform, which did not seem threatened until a few days ago, even if the outcome of the upcoming vote in the Senate remains uncertain.

TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American authorities for several months, with many officials believing that the short and entertaining video platform allows Beijing to spy on and manipulate its 170 million users in the United States.

The company has repeatedly denied having transmitted information to the Chinese authorities and assured that it would refuse any possible request to this effect.

The text of the law, adopted by a large majority of 352 votes out of 432 elected officials, “does not ban TikTok”, argued the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, who voted in favor of the proposal.

“It aims to resolve legitimate questions of national security and data protection linked to the Chinese Communist Party's relationship with a social network,” he explained in a press release.

< p>“This process was carried out in secret and the text presented urgently for one reason: it is a ban”, reacted a TikTok spokesperson to AFP. “We hope that the Senate will take the facts into account, listen to its constituents and realize the impact (that a ban would have) on the economy.”

” “Today's vote, which included representatives from both parties, shows Congress' opposition to Communist China's attempts to spy and manipulate Americans and is a sign of our resolve to deter our enemies.” said Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Ahead of the vote, China had indicated that a ban would undermine “the confidence of international investors” and would amount, for the world's leading power, to “shooting itself in the foot”, according to a diplomatic spokesperson. Chinese, castigating the “intimidation” against TikTok.

The bill's fate is uncertain in the Senate, where prominent figures oppose such a drastic measure against an extremely popular app .

The leader of the Democrats in the upper house, Chuck Schumer, simply took note of the vote on Wednesday, without commenting on the text.

US President Joe Biden said that if passed in the Senate, he would sign the text into law.

The proposed law would require ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, to sell the app within 180 days or it would be barred from Apple and Google's app stores in the United States.< /p>

No potential buyer has yet officially come forward. The Wall Street Journal reports that the former boss of video game publisher Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, has expressed interest in the co-founder of ByteDance, Zhang Yiming.

The value of TikTok is difficult to estimate, particularly in the case of a forced sale. In 2020, ByteDance had set its price at $60 billion when the government of Donald Trump wanted to force it to part with it, according to the Bloomberg agency.

– Freedom of expression –

Several US states and the federal government have banned the use of application on official devices of civil servants, citing risks to national security.

United States: after a vote in Congress, the threat of a ban on TikTok becomes clearer

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a hearing at the US Senate on January 31, 2024 in Washington © AFP – ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is in Washington, where he is trying to build support to block the bill.

Former US President Donald Trump (2017-2021) reversed course by saying on Monday that he was opposed to a ban, mainly because it would strengthen Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, which he called of “enemy of the people”.

In 2020, the real estate developer, then President of the United States, attempted to wrest control of TikTok from ByteDance before being prevented from doing so by the American courts .

M. Trump has refuted accusations that he changed his tune because a major TikTok investor, Jeff Yass, threatened to stop helping fund Republican election campaigns.

Other attempts to ban TikTok have also failed, with a bill proposed a year ago failing to succeed, primarily due to free speech concerns.

As for the current proposal, “it is too general a text, which will not withstand the examination of the first amendment” to the American Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression, reacted the elected Democrat in the House Ro Khanna.

A law adopted in May by the state of Montana (northwest) to ban the platform had been suspended by a federal court in November on the grounds that it violated constitutional free speech rights.

“The other problem is that a lot of people win their life with this platform” in the United States, Ro Khanna added to journalists.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116