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US House Passes Updated TikTok Bill, Senate Vote Expected Next Week

In a significant legislative move, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted 360 to 58 in favor of an updated version of the divest-or-ban bill targeting the popular social media platform TikTok. If passed into law, this would mark the first instance of the US government taking action to shutter an entire social media platform.

The bill, championed by Texas Republican representative Michael McCaul, aims to address concerns regarding the alleged influence of Chinese propaganda on TikTok, labeling the app as a potential security threat. McCaul emphasized the importance of safeguarding Americans, particularly children, from what he described as the “malign influence” of Chinese propaganda infiltrating the platform.

The passage of the updated bill was part of House Republican speaker Mike Johnson’s broader foreign aid package, which includes provisions for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

The Senate is slated to vote on the bill next week, with President Joe Biden signaling his intention to sign the legislation into law upon its passage.

Critics of TikTok have long raised concerns about the app’s parent company, ByteDance, which is based in China, alleging potential data privacy risks and censorship of content critical of the Chinese government. These concerns gained further traction after Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, warned about the possibility of Chinese interference in the US’s upcoming presidential elections through TikTok.

In response, TikTok has vehemently denied allegations of data sharing with the Chinese government, asserting its independence as a platform with leadership based in various countries outside China.

However, the House’s move to advance the bill has drawn sharp criticism from TikTok, which expressed disappointment over what it sees as a threat to free speech rights and economic contributions to the US. The platform’s objections were echoed by the president of Signal, an encrypted messaging service, who highlighted broader implications for data privacy across social media platforms.

Despite these objections, the bill’s passage underscores growing bipartisan concerns about the potential risks posed by foreign-owned social media platforms, particularly in the realm of data privacy and national security.

President Biden’s previous commitment to signing the bill, coupled with recent congressional scrutiny of TikTok’s operations, signals a concerted effort to address these concerns through legislative action.