The Reasons Behind the House's Decision to Prohibit TikTok and Potential Outcomes

Published: Mar. 23, 2024
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In an unexpected turn of events, the House passed a bill on Wednesday, putting ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, in an intense predicament. The bill mandates the company to divest the popular app or risk a sweeping ban on U.S. devices. But as this news reverberates around the nation, an impenetrable fog of uncertainty hangs over the legislation’s destiny in the Senate.

Coalescing across the party lines, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bipartisan bill that could see TikTok banished from U.S devices. The tally favored the passing of the bill by 352-65 votes. Despite the overwhelming endorsement in the House, the outlook for the legislation remains shrouded in the Senate. In a remarkable show of unity, the Senate Intelligence Committee's senior lawmakers, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, and Mark Warner, D-Va, lauded the House bill, urging the Senate to swing into action. However, the timeline remains ambiguous as several lawmakers insist on Senate hearings on the legislation before proceeding.

Interestingly, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis, the lead GOP sponsor of the bipartisan bill, vehemently argued against construing the bill as a ban of the app. His stance rested on advocating this action as a "forced separation," permitting the TikTok user experience to evolve, provided ByteDance no longer owns the company. This proposal, however, effectively translates to an outright ban of TikTok in the United States, considering both the company and China's historical aversion to divestiture. TikTok, for its part, have voiced that stifling a social media platform infringes the free speech rights of its millions of American users.

Gallagher, supported by classified and unclassified national security assessments, warned about the threats TikTok poses to user privacy. Accusations have been levelled against the app for targeting journalists and electoral interference. A classified briefing presented by senior intelligence and national security officials outlining their analysis further substantiated these concerns. The briefing was attended by all House members, raising alarms over potential surveillance and propaganda operations by the Chinese Communist Party using the app.

Ahead looms a fiercely contested battle as ByteDance, the American Civil Liberties Union and sections of the Congress mount a spirited opposition against the bill. Their shared ground remains the belief that the bill, named "Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act," threatens the Constitutional right to free expression. Undeterred by these challenges, Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, a significant contributor to the bill's drafting, counters these arguments. He stresses that while free speech is a fundamental right, it doesn't extend to threats against national security.

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