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The US has come one step closer to banning TikTok

US lawmakers say the platform’s Chinese ownership poses national security risks. Beijing says forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok would be an ‘act of bullying.’

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UPDATED: 14 Mar 2024, 7:57 am

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force the Chinese owners of popular short-form video app TikTok to either sell their controlling stake within six months or see it banned in America, according to multiple media outlets.

The bill, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, still needs Senate approval and a presidential signature to become law.

Prior to the vote, which took place last night Macao time, China’s foreign ministry slammed the bill as “an act of bullying” that would backfire on the US. The Chinese government has previously said it firmly opposed any forced sale of TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-headquartered company ByteDance.

US lawmakers supportive of the bill claim a Chinese-owned TikTok posed risks to national security, as Beijing could theoretically compel ByteDance to hand user data over to the Chinese government. 

[See more: Six apps you need to survive in mainland China]

TikTok has called the legislation an attack on its users’ constitutional right to freedom of expression.

“[A ban] will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the [US],” it posted on X. Around 170 million Americans use the platform.

If the bill is ratified, and ByteDance chooses not to divest itself of its stake in TikTok, it would become illegal for US app stores to make TikTok available for download. The platform would also be blocked by web hosting services in the US.

Washington has long sought to impose geopolitical, economic and technological constraints on Beijing in an attempt to stymie China’s development. It has banned chip exports to China, prevented US companies from investing in China’s tech sector and banned several large Chinese companies from operating in the US market.

UPDATED: 14 Mar 2024, 7:57 am

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