March 13, 2024 TikTok ban bill House vote

A bill could ban TikTok across the US. Here's what to know about today's House vote — and the app's future

From CNN staff
The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a bill that could lead to a nationwide ban against TikTok, one of the world's most popular social media apps. It’s not yet clear what the future of the bill will be in the Senate.
Here's what you need to know about the vote and what may happen next:
  • Who voted for the bill: The House vote was 352 to 65, with 50 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting in opposition. In a rare show of bipartisanship, the measure advanced unanimously out of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, and President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.
  • Why the bill passed: Lawmakers supportive of the bill have argued TikTok poses a national security threat because the Chinese government could use its intelligence laws against TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, forcing it to hand over the data of US app users.
  • What the legislation would do: The bill would prohibit TikTok from US app stores unless the social media platform — used by roughly 170 million Americans — is spun off from ByteDance. The bill would give ByteDance roughly five months to sell TikTok. If not divested by that time, it would be illegal for app store operators such as Apple and Google to make it available for download.
  • Uncertain future in the Senate: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remained uncommitted Wednesday to the next steps in the Senate, just saying that the chamber will review the legislation. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, urged support for the House bill, citing the strong showing in Wednesday’s vote. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, the chair of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, wants to create a durable process that could apply to foreign entities beyond TikTok that might pose national security risks.
  • What TikTok is saying: TikTok has called the legislation an attack on the constitutional right to freedom of expression for its users. China’s foreign ministry called the bill an “act of bullying.” In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter), CEO Shou Chew thanked the community of TikTok users, and said the company has invested in keeping user "data safe and our platform free from outside manipulation." He warned that if the bill is signed into law, it will impact hundreds of thousands of American jobs and take "billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses."
  • Opposition to banning TikTok: Former President Donald Trump, who was once a proponent of banning the platform, has since equivocated on his position, while Democrats are facing pressure from young progressives among whom TikTok remains a preferred social media platform.
  • Potential antitrust issues: The market for social media services is highly concentrated, which could make it hard for TikTok to even find a buyer that US competition regulators could accept, antitrust experts say.
CNN's Clare Foran, Brian Fung and Haley Talbot contributed reporting to this post.
This story was updated with the response from TikTok CEO Shou Chew.
15 hr 9 min ago

Key Democrat eyes different approach on TikTok bill as senators diverge on path ahead

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Manu Raju
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Maria Cantwell during a hearing in Washington, DC, on February 9, 2023. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, the chair of a key Senate committee, is pursuing a different – and more complex – TikTok plan than the bill that passed the GOP-led House, the latest indication that cracking down on the popular app faces a convoluted path to President Joe Biden's desk this election year.
It's also not clear if Democrats, who control the Senate and the White House, really have the will to take action against TikTok, which has 170 million users in the United States, many who are young voters who could be angered by a ban and may take it out on the many Democratic incumbents on the ballot this year.
There are now two main approaches being considered in the Senate, according to senators and aides involved in the issue.
  • The first, and simplest, would be to pass the House bill. But critics warn the House approach could have constitutional pitfalls because the legislation specifically names the companies targeted by it and therefore could eventually be thrown out in court.
  • The second approach is a remedy proposed by Cantwell of Washington, the chair of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, who wants to create a durable process that could apply to foreign entities beyond TikTok who might pose national security risks.
"The whole point here is you have a dilemma. You want free speech, but you also want the United States to have the ability to protect US citizens or US military from foreign actors who might be deleterious in what they are using as a tool of communication," she said.
Cantwell, whose committee would have the main jurisdiction over the issue, is still developing the proposal, a sign that it could take weeks or months to negotiate and take away from the political strength the House bill has after a big bipartisan vote in its favor.
15 hr 47 min ago

The TikTok bill provides a "totally reasonable" window for divestment, former FTC chair says

From CNN's Brian Fung
It is "totally reasonable" to think that TikTok could complete a sale within six months if the bill were to pass in the Senate and is signed into law, according to a former top US antitrust regulator.
"Six months is a perfectly reasonable timeframe for a divestiture or forced sale. It happens all the time in the antitrust agencies," Jon Leibowitz, a former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, told CNN.
It is possible the Chinese government could try to block a TikTok sale; officials said last year the country "firmly opposes" any forced sale of the company. In 2022, the country proposed new regulations governing the sale of social media algorithms to foreign buyers, a move that could give China an effective veto over a potential TikTok deal.
That could complicate and delay a TikTok divestiture, Leibowitz added.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions at the core of this divestiture legislation," he said, "but I actually think the six months is pretty reasonable. Most antitrust attorneys or corporate attorneys who work on divestiture think it’s a pretty fair timeframe."
Remember: The bill that passed in the House Wednesday would prohibit TikTok from US app stores unless the social media platform — used by roughly 170 million Americans — is spun off from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
The bill would give ByteDance roughly five months to sell TikTok. If not divested by that time, it would be illegal for app store operators such as Apple and Google to make it available for download.
15 hr 28 min ago

White House urges Senate to take "swift action" on TikTok ban bill

From CNN's Brian Fung and Samantha Waldenberg
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The sun rises through the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called on Senate lawmakers to take "swift action" on the TikTok bill just passed by the House.
"We want to see the Senate take swift action,” Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday en route to Wisconsin.
President Joe Biden has previously come out in support of the bill, saying he would sign it if it reached his desk.
Jean-Pierre added that the White House does not expect the bill to affect the US-China relationship, even as Chinese officials warned this week that passage of the legislation would "backfire" on the United States.
"We are going to continue our work, you know, working with our relationship with China," Jean-Pierre said. "That’s not going to stop. But the president has always been clear, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has always been clear: When it comes to our national security, when it comes to data that’s coming from Americans, we’re always going to make sure that we’re addressing those threats that we face.”
16 hr 36 min ago

A TikTok sale could raise antitrust concerns

From CNN's Brian Fung
One potential stumbling block to a TikTok sale is that the market for social media services is highly concentrated, antitrust experts say.
That could make it hard for TikTok to find a buyer that US competition regulators could accept.
"Who's going to buy it? That's the real question," said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department antitrust official. "If it’s Amazon, Microsoft, Google or Meta, I just think you're going to see substantial antitrust concern."
All four of those tech giants have come under tremendous antitrust scrutiny in recent years, with the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission suing each of them for alleged violations of US competition law.
Both federal agencies have made a point of identifying ways that troves of personal data can give the largest tech platforms an anticompetitive edge.
TikTok could have an easier path selling to a company that hasn't raised red flags with antitrust regulators, Kimmelman added.
15 hr ago

This is the closest we've come so far to a TikTok ban

From CNN's Brian Fung
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The TikTok app is seen in the app store on a phone in New York City, on March 13. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
With the passage of the TikTok bill in the House on Wednesday, this is the closest the United States has come to banning the social media platform on personal devices.
The next closest thing would be a Montana law that bans TikTok on personal devices within the state. That legislation would have taken effect on Jan. 1, but a federal judge blocked it from taking effect late last year.
The Montana law likely violates the First Amendment, wrote District Judge Donald Malloy at the time. The same decision highlighted a debate about whether Montana was impermissibly engaging in foreign policy, a job that is reserved for the federal government.
In a statement on Wednesday’s vote, TikTok said its attention would now shift to the Senate, where the fate of the legislation is unclear.
17 hr 9 min ago

Here's what could happen to the TikTok bill in the Senate

From CNN's Brian Fung
After the House's dizzyingly fast passage of a bill that seemed to take TikTok by surprise, the company has more of an opportunity to block the legislation in the Senate.
"The Senate doesn't move quickly," wrote Paul Gallant, a policy analyst at the market research firm Cowen Inc., in a research note Wednesday afternoon. "The longer it takes, the more time for TikTok and its allies to win over senators."
The 2024 election could make it difficult to pass legislation, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, one of the bill's architects, acknowledged to reporters Wednesday.
Even so, Gallant wrote, senators could try to tuck the bill into a must-pass defense spending bill toward the end of the year, after the election.
"We continue to see passage of a TikTok ban bill in 2024 as more likely than not," Gallant wrote. "That would set the stage for a one to two year court fight on First Amendment grounds."
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said only that the chamber would review the House bill when it reaches his chamber.
President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.
18 hr 11 min ago

"Gen Z historian" draws parallels between TikTok bill vote and Cold War-era Red Scare

From CNN's Brian Fung
Kahlil Greene, a self-described "Gen Z historian" whose TikTok videos on Black history reach more than 640,000 followers, told CNN Wednesday that the House vote carries echoes of some of the darkest times in the country's past.
In an interview, Greene compared the effort to clamp down on a foreign-owned app to the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s, which saw a wide range of Americans fall under government suspicion amid fears of communist infiltration.
"It just seems like very icky territory," he said, "censoring under the threat of national security, which has oftentimes been the way that you can censor and, like, really take away American freedoms — whether it be the Patriot Act, or the Red Scare. It’s this idea that communist entities and foreign entities are taking over."
The US government has not been persuasive enough about the need for restrictions specifically targeting TikTok, Greene said, and has not formulated a solution that protects Americans' constitutional rights.
"I’m really concerned with the government banning TikTok, especially in an election year," he said, "and also hypocritically, especially when they are using it so much and are continuing to use it for their campaign purposes. It’s like, ‘TikTok can be used when it benefits the American government, but when it starts creating dissent, and novel public opinion around issues that have been set in stone in American politics, then it becomes a problem.’ That’s my concern."
18 hr 39 min ago

A classified briefing on TikTok leads to divergent takeaways

From CNN's Brian Fung, Lauren Fox, Morgan Rimmer and Haley Talbot
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Rep. Mike Gallagher talks with reporters after the House passed a bill that could ban TikTok in the US on Wednesday, March 13. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP
House lawmakers are divided on the value of a classified briefing held this week intended to get them up to speed on TikTok's alleged national security risks.
“I went to the briefing yesterday, the top secret briefing, it was vacuous," said California Republican Rep. John Duarte, who voted against the bill today.. "There was no specific information given in that briefing that was well founded evidence and specific about what TikTok or anybody else was doing."
Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, who voted for the bill, described it as a judgment call.
“This is one of those arguments where you can push either argument. For me, at the end of the day, it really came down to whether or not we can take some action to try to deter the malign influence of the PRC,” Kildee said. He added: "I can’t go through a lot of what I have learned. I can just tell you they are legitimate, they are real … I understand the public concerns about this and I know it sounds like a talking point.”
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, one of the bill's original leading cosponsors, acknowledged some uncertainty surrounding the legislation's future in the Senate.
“Obviously with the Senate, you know, that’s 100 senators that are going to have an opinion on this thing,” Gallagher said. “So obviously, you’ve got to balance that against the need to do something expeditiously. Because everything gets harder the closer you get to an election.”