US Lawmakers Demand Chinese Divestment from TikTok

by | Mar 6, 2024

US Lawmakers Demand Chinese Divestment from TikTok

by | Mar 6, 2024

TikTok Ban

A bipartisan group in Congress has introduced legislation that would give TikTok’s China-based parent firm just six months to divest from the social media giant, a measure which already received backing from the White House.

GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, who chairs the House committee on China, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, announced the new bill on Tuesday, saying it would address “immediate national security risks” allegedly posed by Chinese ownership of the app.

“Applications like TikTok that are controlled by foreign adversaries pose an unacceptable risk to US national security,” the lawmakers wrote. “Such apps allow our adversaries to surveil and influence the American public, both through the data we produce and the information we share and consume.”

The bill would give TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, 165 days to divest from the platform, threatening to ban the site from major app stores should it fail to do so. It warns of similar penalties for any application said to be controlled by a “foreign adversary.” According to Reuters, an initial vote on the measure could come as early as Thursday.

While President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign joined TikTok just last month, the administration has already voiced strong support for the bill. When asked about it during a Wednesday news briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the legislation was “important,” adding “we welcome this step.”

TikTok has faced a number of restrictions in the US in recent years, with Biden signing a bill which banned the app on federal devices in 2022 and several state governments enacting similar prohibitions. Though the Senate advanced legislation to outright ban TikTok last year, the bill later stalled in Congress.

A long line of US officials, as well as lawmakers from both parties, have repeatedly accused the Chinese government of seeking to use the app for espionage purposes, questioning the security of Americans’ data on the site.

Beijing, for its part, has rejected those charges, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry insisting the People’s Republic would never ask firms to “collect or provide data, information or intelligence” on foreign users. Chinese officials have also argued that Washington has to date provided no evidence to support its national security claims. 

ByteDance has also pointed to large ownership shares held by non-Chinese entities, among them American investment giants Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. The company’s founders currently hold a 20% stake overall, while employees own another 20% and foreign investors 60%.

A spokesperson for TikTok, Alex Haurek, has denounced the new bill as “an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it.”

“This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs,” Haurek added.

About Will Porter

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor at Antiwar.com. Find more of his work at Consortium News, ZeroHedge and RT.

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