Bill that could ban TikTok passes in House despite constitutional concerns

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill with a vote of 352–65 that could block TikTok in the US. Fifteen Republicans and 50 Democrats voted in opposition, and one Democrat voted present, CNN reported.

TikTok is not happy. A spokesperson told Ars, “This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: it’s a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service.”

Lawmakers insist that the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act is not a ban. Instead, they claim the law gives TikTok a choice: either divest from ByteDance’s China-based owners or face the consequences of TikTok being cut off in the US.

Under the law—which still must pass the Senate, a more significant hurdle, where less consensus is expected and a companion bill has not yet been introduced—app stores and hosting services would face steep consequences if they provide access to apps controlled by US foreign rivals. That includes allowing the app to be updated or maintained by US users who already have the app on their devices.

Violations subject app stores and hosting services to fines of $5,000 for each individual US user “determined to have accessed, maintained, or updated a foreign adversary-controlled application.” With 170 million Americans currently on TikTok, that could add up quickly to eye-popping fines.

If the bill becomes law, app stores and hosting services would have 180 days to limit access to foreign adversary-controlled apps. The bill specifically names TikTok and ByteDance as restricted apps, making it clear that lawmakers intend to quash the alleged “national security threat” that TikTok poses in the US.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a proponent of the bill, has said that “foreign adversaries like China pose the greatest national security threat of our time. With applications like TikTok, these countries are able to target, surveil, and manipulate Americans.” The proposed bill “ends this practice by banning applications controlled by foreign adversaries of the United States that pose a clear national security risk.”

McMorris Rodgers has also made it clear that “our goal is to get this legislation onto the president’s desk.” Joe Biden has indicated he will sign the bill into law, leaving the Senate as the final hurdle to clear. Senators told CNN that they were waiting to see what happened in the House before seeking a path forward in the Senate that would respect TikTok users’ civil liberties.

Attempts to ban TikTok have historically not fared well in the US, with a recent ban in Montana being reversed by a federal judge last December. Judge Donald Molloy granted TikTok’s request for a preliminary injunction, denouncing Montana’s ban as an unconstitutional infringement of Montana-based TikTok users’ rights.

More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has slammed House lawmakers for rushing the bill through Congress, accusing lawmakers of attempting to stifle free speech. ACLU senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff said in a press release that lawmakers were “once again attempting to trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points during an election year.”

“Just because the bill sponsors claim that banning TikTok isn’t about suppressing speech, there’s no denying that it would do just that,” Leventoff said.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top