Thursday Briefing: U.S. Targets TikTok

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Republican and a leader of the bill, said it “forces TikTok to break up with the Chinese Communist Party.”Credit…Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

U.S. House advances TikTok ban

The House of Representatives passed a bill meant to force ByteDance, the Chinese internet company, to sell TikTok within six months to a buyer that satisfies the U.S. government — or face a ban in the country. The vote was the latest development in a cold war between the U.S. and China over the control of valuable technology.

U.S. officials have expressed concerns that TikTok’s Chinese ownership poses a national security risk. Many are worried that Beijing could demand Americans’ personal data from ByteDance and that, under Chinese law, ByteDance would have to comply. They also worry that China could use TikTok’s powerful algorithm to feed its users political propaganda.

TikTok — which 170 million Americans use — has said that it has gone to great lengths to protect U.S. user data. China condemned the push and rejected concerns that TikTok was a danger to the U.S.

But few buyers could afford even the U.S. portion of TikTok, which could be worth $50 billion. Those that could may face antitrust issues, or China could block the sale. If ByteDance cannot or refuses to sell TikTok, it would be unlawful for app stores and web hosting companies to distribute or update the app in the U.S.

What’s next: The bill faces a tough road in the Senate. President Biden has said he would sign it should it pass both houses of Congress.

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