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It's official: The US will ban TikTok if it doesn't disconnect from China

TikTok's parent company has a maximum of one year to find a buyer, or the platform will be banned in the US.

Published onApril 24, 2024

  • The United States government has passed a law forcing TikTok’s owners to sell the platform or face a national ban.
  • TikTok will need to be sold in nine months, although the US can extend this period by three months.
  • This law will likely face First Amendment scrutiny, which could delay the ban or even cancel it.

United States President Joe Biden today signed a bill that forces TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the popular video-sharing platform within nine months. If the sale doesn’t happen, TikTok will be banned across the entire US.

The bill, which is part of a foreign aid package, was passed by the US Senate yesterday. Previously, it passed through the House of Representatives. At the time, Biden said he would sign it as soon as it hit his desk, which he followed through on today.

Tune in as I deliver remarks on the Senate passage of the national security package.
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 24, 2024

In a statement, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew vowed to defeat the ban. “Rest assured — we aren’t going anywhere,” Chew said. “The facts and the Constitution are on our side, and we expect to prevail again.”

What does this mean for TikTok?

TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese company. The US government has concerns that ByteDance could use TikTok’s massive popularity to spread pro-China propaganda and utilize US user data for nefarious purposes. This is why the bill was written and, ultimately, why it passed.

Now, ByteDance needs to sell TikTok to a non-Chinese company within nine months (although there is provision for a three-month extension, to be enacted at the US government’s discretion). If ByteDance is unable (or refuses) to sell the highly lucrative social network, the law goes into effect, and TikTok will be banned.

If the ban goes through, TikTok will be removed from official app stores, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, and the service will not be accessible via the web.

However, it wouldn’t be impossible for US users to access TikTok. Through the use of a VPN service, a US citizen could access a non-US version of one of the app stores and then access it that way. Additionally, a person could sideload the app. In either case, though, the inconvenience of doing this would immediately crater TikTok’s user base, allowing competitor platforms to take over. Eventually, TikTok would be used by a very, very small percentage of US citizens.

Any ban on the platform in the US will likely face legal hurdles, though. In Montana, the state government enacted a TikTok ban that was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a state judge on the basis that the ban likely violated First Amendment rights. It is nearly guaranteed that a national ban would face a similar fight. However, it should be noted that the First Amendment can be “bent” in the case of national security threats, of which the US government is categorizing this TikTok ban. So the law being overturned is by no means guaranteed.

The news also comes after TikTok sought to assuage concerns about privacy and national security. The company even teamed up with Oracle to store US users’ data in the United States. However, this does not appear to have been enough.

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