How US lawmakers aim to get ByteDance to sell TikTok

  • Lawmakers in the United States have this week presented a new bipartisan bill targeting TikTok and its parent company ByteDance.
  • The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act would force ByteDance to sell TikTok within six months if it wants to operate in the US.
  • It would specifically stop app stores from distributing TikTok if it was not divested from ByteDance.

The United States government has once again turned its attention to the wildly popular social media platform TikTok and its parent company ByteDance. The latest effort to get the latter to sell the former sees the introducing of a new bipartisan bill called the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.

The bill would seek to stop any app stores or web hosting services in the US from distributing the app within the country’s borders, along with forcing ByteDance to divest its interests in TikTok should it wish to continue to operate in the United States, also giving it six months to do so.

“The bill prevents app store availability or web hosting services in the U.S. for ByteDance-controlled applications, including TikTok, unless the application severs ties to entities like ByteDance that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary, as defined by Congress in Title 10,” a press release issued by Congress explained.

“In addition, the bill creates a process for the President to designate certain, specifically defined social media applications that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary—per Title 10—and pose a national security risk. Designated applications will face a prohibition on app store availability and web hosting services in the U.S. unless they sever ties to entities subject to the control of a foreign adversary through divestment,” it added.

As Engadget points out, this is not the first time that the US government has tried to force a sale, with former President Donald Trump doing so in 2020, resulting in Oracle handling many of the data operations for the social media platform, but no sale coming to fruition.

In order to ease any concerns about US citizen data being gathered and potentially used by state-owned foreign companies, TikTok has tried to get its Project Texas off the ground, which is a data localisation initiative being overseen by Oracle.

Project Texas does not seem to be a large enough step, however, as we saw TikTok CEO Shou Chew being grilled by senators recently regarding his and his company’s alleged ties to the Chinese government.

“This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users. America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States. TikTok’s time in the United States is over unless it ends its relationship with CCP-controlled ByteDance,” noted representative and chairman, Mike Gallagher, regarding the bill.

As such, there is little that TikTok can do at this stage to dissuade US lawmakers that it has ties to the Chinese government and has been nefariously spying on citizens in the United States.

It remains to be seen whether the bill comes into law, but if it does, we only hope that lawmakers display an equal amount of fervour regarding other social media platforms like Facebook (now Meta), which has also been found to be guilty of dodgy data practices.

Namely the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which only resulted in a relatively small fine being dolled out as punishment.

[Image – Photo by Eyestetix Studio on Unsplash]


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