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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, a bill that would effectively ban TikTok in the United States. The legislation was rushed to a vote following a closed-door hearing and subsequent committee vote late last week. The bill’s sponsors claim that this measure does not trigger First Amendment scrutiny because it merely requires TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to divest its holdings if it wants to keep the popular app available to hundreds of millions of U.S. users.

According to the legislation, ByteDance must sell its TikTok shares within six months to a buyer that satisfies the U.S. government — with the added guarantee that ByteDance no longer has any control over platform algorithms that recommend content to users. If ByteDance refuses to sell, cloud providers and app stores will be prohibited from distributing TikTok in the United States.

TikTok has approximately 170 million users in this country alone, and is especially popular with younger generations and people of color, who use TikTok to organize, communicate, educate and entertain.

The legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not yet committed to bringing it up for a vote. President Joseph Biden has said he’ll sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Free Press Action Policy Counsel Jenna Ruddock said:

“TikTok isn’t perfect, but banning it is the wrong solution. Like all popular platforms, including those that Meta and Google own, TikTok collects too much data on its users. But unilaterally dismantling spaces for free expression limits people’s access to information and cuts off avenues for creators to build community. The legislation also fails to meaningfully protect our privacy or address the national-security concerns the bill’s sponsors have raised.

“As this legislation moves through Congress, TikTok has urged its users to call their lawmakers to advocate for the app’s continued availability. We were inspired to see people of all ages engaging with the legislative process before the bill came up for a full House vote — but deeply disappointed to see reports that congressional offices dismissed these passionate outreaches from their constituents.

“Banning a single platform will not address the problem at the root of the entire tech landscape. At any given time, dozens of corporations are tracking us, analyzing our behavior and profiting off of our private information. An entire industry is dedicated to harvesting our sensitive data, selling it both in the United States and abroad, where it’s used to target people with unwelcome ads and political disinformation — and, potentially, pry into our personal lives. And all of this information is available to governments — to United States law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies alike — on the open market for brokers and other intermediaries who sell data to interested buyers. It’s ridiculous for Congress to single out one app while failing to act on this huge problem that’s prevalent across all social media.

“Lawmakers should instead pass a federal privacy law that would limit how all companies collect, store, analyze and sell our personal data. In the coming weeks, Free Press Action will continue pushing Congress to champion real federal privacy protections and rein in the data-broker industry. For now, senators must do what their House counterparts failed to: Protect free expression online and reject this misguided TikTok ban.”

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