House Passes Bill That Requires ByteDance to Sell TikTok or Face Ban in the U.S.

Cristiano Lima-Strong, Jacob Bogage, and Mariana Alfaro, reporting for The Washington Post:

The House overwhelmingly passed a measure Wednesday to force TikTok to split from its parent company or face a national ban, a lightning offensive that materialized abruptly after years of unsuccessful negotiations over the platform’s fate. The legislation, approved 352 to 65, is a sweeping bipartisan rebuke of the popular video-sharing app — and an attempt to grapple with allegations that TikTok’s China-based parent, ByteDance, presents national security risks.

For years, lawmakers have been introducing proposals seeking to restrict the company’s activities in the U.S., and finding limited momentum. But these lengthy behind-the-scenes deliberations were hastened, lawmakers said, by the Biden administration’s growing support of the effort, coupled with concerns about TikTok’s potential to influence U.S. politics, which intensified after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Private briefings from national security and law enforcement officials, including a classified hearing last week, served as a “call to action” for Congress to “finally” take a stand against TikTok, said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It’s unclear whether these meetings with the FBI, Justice Department and Office of the Director of the National Intelligence surfaced new evidence against the company.

It seems pretty clear those briefings did surface alarming evidence. The two concerns about TikTok are that (a) the Chinese government is using it to surveil Americans; and (b) that it serves as a powerful propaganda vehicle for the PRC. It’s the latter concern — propaganda — that has had me calling for a TikTok ban (or divestiture by ByteDance) for years.

Remember too: China itself bans all foreign social networks. Facebook, Instagram, Threads, Twitter/X, Pinterest — none of them are available in mainland China. It’s bananas that we allow an algorithmically-driven social media app controlled by China here.

Wednesday, 13 March 2024