UPDATE: TikTok Ban Signed into Law Despite User Protests

TikTok is coming closer to being banned in the U.S.
Photo credit: Ascannio -

[Update as of 4/25/24] President Joe Biden swiftly signed into law the foreign aid package that includes a TikTok sell-or-be-banned measure on April 24, 2024. TikTok now has one year to sell to a U.S.-based owner or be blocked in the country. TikTok was swift to respond, saying in a statement that “this unconstitutional law is a TikTok ban, and we will challenge it in court.” In addition to a legal challenge, TikTok owner ByteDance also is reportedly considering a sale of the platform without its recommendation algorithm, which would make the sale more tenable to its Chinese owners but less desirable to U.S. buyers.

[Update as of 4/24/24] The U.S. Senate has passed a foreign aid bill that contains a TikTok sell-or-be-banned measure. Following the passage of a standalone bill in March that has since floundered in the Senate, the House of Representatives tacked the proposed TikTok ban onto the aid bill, which provides support for Ukraine and Israel. The revised bill, which passed the House earlier this week, now heads to President Biden, who is expected sign it. In anticipation of such an eventuality, TikTok has begun preparing a legal challenge to any legislation forcing a sale or ban of its platform.  

Original story from March 14, 2024 begins-

A second attempt by Congress to diminish the influence of the popular Chinese-based social media platform TikTok appears to have legs after a fast-tracked bill to ban the app easily passed in the House 352 to 65 Wednesday. Legislators have long claimed that the app poses a national security risk in the U.S. given the company’s direct ties to China.


The bill, which was introduced just last week, is titled the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. It would force Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners within six months of being signed into law; if not, the app would be banned. The bill’s passage in the Senate is less clear, with The Hill reporting that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has been noncommittal about the legislation. However, the White House is making it widely known that President Biden will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Both TikTok and the Chinese government have been swift to respond. TikTok mobilized its 170 million U.S. users with an in-app pop-up last week urging them to call their representatives to express disapproval of the bill. Some representatives pointed to the tactic as proof of the kind of worrying influence that TikTok has over its users, according to The New York Times.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressed the potential of a U.S. TikTok ban in a press conference Thursday.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressed the potential of a U.S. TikTok ban in a press conference Thursday. (Image courtesy China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A spokesperson for China’s Commerce Ministry said that the country will “take all necessary measures” to protect its interests. Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added in a press conference on March 14 that the bill “puts the U.S. on the opposite side of the principles of fair competition and international trade rules. If the so-called ‘national security’ can be cited at will to bring down other countries’ competitive companies, there would be no fairness or justice to speak of. It is sheer robbers’ logic to try every means to snatch from others all things that are good.”

It’s worth noting that Beijing does not allow any U.S. social media companies to operate in China. When that was pointed out to Wenbin, he responded by saying: “We welcome foreign platforms and services of various kinds to the Chinese market on the premise that they observe China’s laws and regulations. This is completely different from the U.S. way of handling TikTok, which is clearly a bullying act.”

TikTok took this moment to release the findings of a study it commissioned from Oxford Economics showcasing the company’s economic impact on the U.S., where it claims to have contributed $24.2 billion to the economy in 2023 through a combination of product sales and free services to businesses. The study also found that 40% of small- and medium-sized businesses say TikTok is critical to their existence.

“TikTok has become an integral part of the social fabric of the U.S., serving as a powerful platform for both individuals and businesses to learn, engage and thrive,” said the company in a statement. “As this study shows, TikTok has been a huge benefit to SMBs, helping them find new customers, grow their businesses and create jobs.”

This latest bill to ban TikTok follows on the actions of state governments that have already banned the app, as well as a failed 2020 attempt at a federal ban that was led by then-president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump. Interestingly, Trump now apparently no longer supports a ban, and the 197 Republicans who voted in favor of this week’s bill did so in defiance of Trump, who called on members of his party to reject it.

In the face of congressional scrutiny last year, TikTok set up the Project Texas Initiative, designed to address issues of corporate governance and data security. That initiative includes a special-purpose subsidiary established in June 2022 that routes all TikTok U.S. user traffic to an infrastructure controlled by Oracle and USDS and located within the U.S.

Alex Haurek, a spokesman for TikTok, said in a statement to the New York Times that the company is “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.”

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