Will TikTok Be Banned in the U.S.? What the New Law Means for the App’s Users

TikTok could be banned in the U.S. as soon as January 2025. Here’s what the new law means for users of the popular short-form video app.

Did the TikTok Ban Bill Become a Law?

Yes. On Wednesday, President Biden signed the TikTok bill into law. The measure was tied to $95.3 billion emergency aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, with the Senate passing the package Tuesday evening by a 79-18 vote. The addition of the “Protecting Americans’ Data From Foreign Adversaries Act of 2024” — which mandates that ByteDance sell its interest in TikTok or face a nationwide ban of the app — was designed to win Republican support for the foreign aid package, which had been stalled in Congress for months.

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When Could TikTok Actually Be Shut Down in the U.S.?

The law specifies that, in the absence of a “qualified divestiture” by ByteDance, the TikTok ban will go into effect 270 days (nine months) after its enactment — which would be Jan. 19, 2025. In addition, the law gives the U.S. president the ability to grant a one-time extension of “not more than 90 days” if the president determines that ByteDance has a legitimate sales negotiation in progress to sell its TikTok stake. That would make the sell-or-ban date April 19, 2025.

Why Is TikTok Potentially Getting Banned in the U.S.?

Many American lawmakers are worried that the Chinese communist regime could “weaponize” TikTok, given its control by Beijing-based internet giant ByteDance — and spy on U.S. citizens, as well as military and government personnel. China is one of four countries designated as a “foreign adversary” under U.S. law (alongside North Korea, Russia and Iran). Chinese companies like ByteDance “don’t owe their obligation to their customers, or their shareholders, but they owe it to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday in arguing for the legislation.

What’s Next for TikTok and ByteDance?

The clock is now ticking on the possible TikTok ban. As its first response, TikTok will fight the law in court, arguing that it violates the First Amendment rights of its estimated 170 million U.S. users. “The facts and the Constitution are on our side, and we expect to prevail again,” TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said in a video Wednesday. “While we make our case in court, you’ll still be able to enjoy TikTok like you always have.”

If the effort to overturn the law fails, ByteDance may try to sell its roughly 40% stake in TikTok to an entity or investor group that would meet with U.S. approval. But that move could be blocked by Chinese authorities, who have insisted that any such sale would represent a technology export. According to the U.S. law, a new non-Chinese owner of TikTok would be prohibited from establishing or maintaining “any operational relationship between the United States operations of the relevant foreign adversary controlled application and any formerly affiliated entities that are controlled by a foreign adversary, including any cooperation with respect to the operation of a content recommendation algorithm or an agreement with respect to data sharing.” ByteDance has denied a report that it was considering selling TikTok without the content algorithm, which is the secret sauce behind TikTok’s massive popularity.

In any case, TikTok would be a very expensive property, limiting the pool of potential buyers. The app generated $16 billion in U.S. revenue in 2023, valuing the business at up to $150 billion, per a Financial Times report.

Does TikTok Have a First Amendment Case Against the New Law?

It has won using that defense before. An executive order by the Trump administration to force ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban was found unconstitutional by federal courts on First Amendment grounds. Last November, a federal judge blocked Montana’s first-of-its-kind statewide ban of TikTok, ruling that the law likely violated the First Amendment.

Supporters of the TikTok divest-or-ban law argue that it isn’t really a “ban” — and that it doesn’t restrict free speech. The only requirement is that it the app be owned by a company that isn’t subject to the control of an adversarial foreign government. As a precedent, backers point to the 2020 sale of dating app Grindr by Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. to a group of U.S.-based investors, a transaction forced by the U.S. government over concerns about the privacy of the app’s users.

“Foreign adversaries use technology for social and political control. There is no individual right to privacy or freedom of speech in these autocracies,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said Tuesday. “U.S. media companies are not allowed to operate in China. In fact, China leads the world in using surveillance and censorship to keep tabs on its own population and to repress dissidence.” Cantwell added: “Governments that respect freedom of speech do not build backdoors into hardware or software, into apps on phones, or into laptops.”

What Does the TikTok Law Mean for Creators?

While creators will not lose access to the TikTok platform overnight, the threat of a U.S. ban “will immediately force dramatic talent platform diversification,” said Andrew Graham, CAA’s head of digital corporate advisory and partnerships. Creators who have not already started doing so will double down on Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, syndicating their content across both of those platforms. Graham added that none of this will “solve the impact of short-form content monetizing at rates much lower than longform. TikTok’s most lasting impact may be instigating an erosion of longform monetization on platforms like YouTube.” As for what CAA is advising clients at this time, Graham said, “We will continue to help our creators think like media brands, establishing a broad mix of platforms and revenue opportunities, and whenever possible, own their audience.”

Didn’t ByteDance Previously Try to Sell TikTok?

Yes. After President Trump ordered Chinese internet giant ByteDance to sell TikTok to U.S. entities in 2020, ByteDance reached a tentative deal with Oracle and Walmart, which under the proposed terms would have acquired a combined 20% stake in TikTok. But that was abandoned after President Biden assumed office and the new administration repealed Trump’s executive order pending further review.

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