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US House Passes Bill Threatening TikTok’s Future

The United States House of Representatives has taken a significant step towards banning the popular Chinese-owned app, TikTok, from American phones. On Saturday, the House passed a bill that would require a forced sale or ban of TikTok in the US within a year. The bill is expected to pass through the Senate as early as this week and is likely to be signed into law by President Biden.

National Security Concerns Drive the Push to Ban TikTok

Lawmakers from both parties consider TikTok a threat to US national security due to its ownership by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance. The primary concerns are:

  1. Data Privacy: Officials fear that the data of TikTok’s 170 million US users could end up in the hands of the Chinese government.
  2. Algorithmic Manipulation: There are concerns that Beijing could influence TikTok’s algorithm to promote its interests and sway American public opinion.

Despite TikTok’s assurances that it has never shared US user data with the Chinese government and would not do so if requested, the app’s future in the US remains uncertain.

Factors Contributing to the Bill’s Momentum

The bill has gained significant support due to two key factors:

  1. Attachment to Foreign Aid Package: The bill is attached to a $95 billion foreign aid package that will provide funds to Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, and Gaza, making it highly likely to pass the Senate.
  2. Extended Deadline for Sale: The current version of the bill extends the deadline for ByteDance to find a buyer from six months to nine months, with the possibility of extending it to a full year if a sale appears close.

Challenges in Executing a Forced Sale

A forced sale of TikTok is not without its challenges:

  1. High Valuation: TikTok’s price could be in the range of several hundred billion dollars, limiting the number of potential buyers.
  2. Antitrust Concerns: American tech companies with the financial resources to acquire TikTok, such as Meta and Alphabet, may be prevented from doing so due to antitrust concerns.
  3. China’s Resistance: As TikTok is China’s most successful app globally, Beijing has signaled that it will not allow a sale by ByteDance, further complicating the app’s fate in the US.

Potential Buyers

Despite the challenges, some individuals, including former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and ex-Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, are reportedly rallying a team of investors to explore bids for TikTok.

The Future of TikTok in the US

As the bill moves through the Senate and potentially becomes law, the future of TikTok in the United States remains uncertain. The app faces the possibility of a forced sale or an outright ban, which could have significant implications for its 170 million US users and the broader social media landscape. In the coming months, the world will be watching closely as the fate of TikTok in the US unfolds.

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