Senate poised to pass bill that could ban TikTok

The Senate is poised to pass a bill as part of a broader foreign aid package that could lead to a ban on the social media app TikTok.

The Senate voted 80-19 to limit debate on the package, which includes a provision that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance to sell the app or face a ban from U.S. devices and networks.

The House-passed package also includes $95 billion in foreign aid divided between Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The TikTok provision faced opposition in the Senate from both sides of the aisle, but its inclusion in the overall package means it is likely to be sent to the president’s desk. A final vote could take place as early as Tuesday night.

President Biden is expected to sign the foreign aid package if it passes the Senate. In March, he voiced support for the TikTok ban legislation when it was unveiled as the Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.

The bill included in the package amended the length of time ByteDance has to sell TikTok from roughly six months, as it was written when the House initially passed it in March, to up to a year. That extension eased concerns from some critics, including Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Cantwell and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.), a vocal supporter of the bill, urged senators on the floor to support the bill Tuesday after the vote to end debate on the package.

Supporters of the bill say it is necessary in order to mitigate national security risks the app poses due to its China-based parent company. Lawmakers have received classified briefings about the risks posed by TikTok.

But Warner also made a plea to the public, especially young people, who make up a strong base of TikTok’s loyal supporters.

“Many Americans, particularly young Americans, are rightfully skeptical. At the end of the day, they’ve not seen what Congress has seen. They’ve not been in the classified briefings that Congress has been in,” he said.

“What they have seen, beyond even this bill, is Congress’s failure to enact meaningful consumer protections and may cynically view this as a diversion,” Warner added. “To those young Americans, I want to say, we hear your concern,” Warner added.

The hope, he said, is that TikTok does continue but under new ownership not tied to a defined foreign adversary.

Critics of the bill say it raises free speech concerns and does not address broader industry-wide issues regarding data privacy and the risks social media apps pose by seemingly targeting one company.

The bill would also grant the president authority to designate other foreign adversary-controlled apps with ties to Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

TikTok has pushed back strongly on the legislation, arguing in repeated statements as it has advanced through Congress that it “would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans” and “devastate 7 million businesses.”

Even if the bill is signed into law, it is likely to face court challenges that could drag out the timeline, as similar federal and state-level efforts have faced in the past.

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