The House just voted on a possible ban on TikTok (again). How now?

The House just voted on a possible ban on TikTok (again). How now?

House lawmakers have again passed legislation that could lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok, renewing a major threat to the company’s US operations.

The move could speed up a proposal TikTok has been fighting for weeks. If the House’s efforts are successful, TikTok could be forced to find a new owner or be banned from the United States entirely.

Here’s what we know and how it could affect you.

Didn’t the House recently vote on something like this?
yes. In March, House lawmakers passed a bill that would have given TikTok about six months to sell. Failure to do so will lead to significant consequences: The app will be banned from the US app store and from the “internet hosting service” that supports it.

What makes this bill different?
A few things. For starters, there are some substantive changes. Instead of the six-month deadline, TikTok will have about nine months. And that deadline can be extended by the White House — for a period of 90 days — if President Joe Biden determines there is progress toward a sale.

Giving TikTok a year to complete the forced sale appears to have changed the political calculus on Capitol Hill. Some key lawmakers who previously expressed skepticism now say they support the bill. One of those lawmakers is Washington’s Democratic Senator. Maria Cantwell, who chairs the powerful Senate Commerce Committee.

Another factor shaking things up is how House Republicans are inserting the TikTok bill into a larger foreign aid package. Instead of having the Senate vote on the TikTok bill separately, bundling the bill with foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel makes it harder for lawmakers to oppose TikTok’s move.

Can the Senate vote on foreign aid without the language of TikTok?
Senators could try to delegitimize TikTok, but policy analysts see that as unlikely. Approving foreign aid quickly is a top congressional priority, and if the Senate passes the package without the TikTok bill, those changes would have to be approved by the House, further delaying things.

It seems more likely that the Senate will consider the entire package in a single up-or-down vote — which is exactly what House Republicans want. The likelihood of a Senate passage is as high as 80%, according to Paul Gallant, a policy analyst at market research firm Cowen, Inc.

The Senate could vote in one to two weeks, Gallant added, although Senate leadership has expressed a desire to move faster.

What does this mean for my app usage?
If the Senate votes to pass the TikTok legislation, it heads to President Joe Biden’s desk. Biden supported an earlier version of the TikTok bill, which suggested he could immediately sign any foreign aid package that included similar language targeting TikTok.

In theory, that would start a 270-day period for TikTok to find a buyer. If it can’t break away from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, then consumers could be cut off. But that’s still a big “if.” So for now, TikTok fans can continue to use the app as before, though they may start to see more creators — or the company itself — speak out on the app to oppose the law.

What are the TikTok options?
In addition to complying with the law, TikTok can challenge it in court and has made no secret that it may do so. Its CEO, Shou Chew, vowed in March to continue fighting, “including (by) exercising our legal rights.”

TikTok and a number of civil society groups have denounced the House law as unconstitutional, arguing that it violates TikTok users’ First Amendment rights to access legitimate information.

First Amendment experts say bills that have the ultimate effect of censoring TikTok users could be struck down by the courts. It’s unclear whether recent updates to the bill could help it survive constitutional scrutiny.

“Long-standing Supreme Court precedent protects Americans’ First Amendment rights to access information, ideas and media from abroad,” said Nadine Farid Johnson, policy director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “By banning TikTok, the bill would violate this right, and without real compensation. China and other foreign adversaries can still buy sensitive American data from data brokers on the open market.”

Court challenge can be men because the move is temporarily blocked while the litigation is ongoing, possibly for several years.

But if the court refuses to grant a temporary injunction, TikTok may have to scramble to comply with the law.

So what if TikTok is sold to someone else?
The problem is that TikTok’s parent is subject to Chinese law, and the Chinese government is on record opposed to the sale.

In recent years, China has implemented export controls that regulate algorithms, a policy that appears to cover the highly successful algorithm that powers TikTok’s recommendation engine.

If Chinese government does not want to let ByteDance release the TikTok algorithm, according to its thinking, it can directly block sales. Alternatively, it might allow TikTok to be sold but without the profitable algorithm that is the basis for its popularity.

Can TikTok still be successful without its algorithm? That will be a tough question facing the company in the event of a forced sale. Without the secret sauce that has propelled the app to 170 million US users, the app could be as good as dead.

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