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U.S. House Votes in Favor of TikTok Ban Bill Amid First Amendment and Other Questions

HeadlineMar 14, 2024

The House overwhelmingly voted Wednesday in favor of a bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to either sell the social media app or face a ban in the U.S. Backers of the bill claim TikTok poses a national security threat and could be used for surveillance by the Chinese government. Rights groups like the ACLU say such a ban would violate the right to free speech. There are around 150 million TikTok users in the U.S. alone. After voting, two of the lawmakers who voted against the measure, Democrats Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal, laid out some of the bill’s issues.

Rep. Ro Khanna: “It’s an overly broad bill that I don’t think would stand First Amendment scrutiny. The other issue is that there are a lot of people who make their livelihoods on this.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal: “There are timeline questions. A hundred and eighty days to sell a company this size is very difficult. What happens to antitrust law? Does it still apply? Does it not apply? And I think, you know, the questions of if this is a de facto ban, I think that is a real problem. And so — but I also have problems — by the way, four countries are named, but if Saudi Arabia buys it, is that fine?”

The measure will now be taken up by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Palestinian rights activists say Israel’s war on Gaza has galvanized anti-TikTok sentiment in conservative and centrist lawmakers. In a leaked post-October 7 audio recording, Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, can be heard saying, “We have a TikTok problem,” referencing declining public support for Israel among younger people. The progressive group RootsAction also noted that AIPAC is the top donor to Congressmember Mike Gallagher, who authored the TikTok ban bill. This comes as Donald Trump flipped his position on the bill within the last week, now opposing the ban, after recently meeting with GOP megadonor Jeff Yass. Yass’s company holds a 15% stake in ByteDance.

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