US Congress moves on with TikTok sale

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

Efforts to compel ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, to sell the popular social media app or face a ban in the U.S. gained momentum in Congress on Thursday.

The House of Representatives scheduled a vote for Saturday on the matter, while a key Senate Democrat expressed support for the initiative.

Included in a comprehensive $95 billion legislative package aimed at providing aid to allies such as Ukraine and Israel, the bill would give ByteDance a year to divest itself of the short-video app.

This represents a significant development in the ongoing push in Washington regarding TikTok’s ownership.

The backing of U.S. Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell significantly bolsters the prospects of the bill becoming law. Cantwell, who initially showed tepid support for the measure, endorsed the version proposed as part of a negotiated package by House Speaker Mike Johnson.

“I’m very happy that Speaker Johnson and House leaders incorporated my recommendation to extend the Byte Dance divestment period from six months to a year,” Cantwell stated.

“Extending the divestment period is necessary to ensure there is enough time for a new buyer to get a deal done. I support this updated legislation.”

The rationale behind the push to force ByteDance to sell TikTok stems from concerns about national security, with fears that China could compel the company to share data from its 170 million U.S. users. However, TikTok has consistently denied sharing such data and has underscored its commitment to user privacy.

In response to the legislative developments, a TikTok spokesperson expressed disappointment, stating that using foreign and humanitarian assistance as a pretext to advance the bill was regrettable. The company emphasized the potential impact on free speech rights and the millions of American businesses that rely on the platform.

Cantwell has emphasized the need for legislation that addresses broader concerns about foreign apps effectively and withstands legal scrutiny. She underscored the importance of having robust tools to address these issues comprehensively.

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