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TikTok now has 12 months to be divested from its Chinese owner or face total US ban

The US Senate has passed new TikTok legislation as a part of a long-awaited US$95 billion foreign aid package.

user icon David Hollingworth
Fri, 26 Apr 2024
TikTok now has 12 months to be divested from its Chinese owner or face total US ban
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President Joe Biden has finally signed into law legislation that puts a ticking clock on TikTok’s time in the US.

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act was passed by the US Senate this week, before being signed by the President, as part of a massive US$95 billion aid package aimed at supporting Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel.

TikTok’s owner, Chinese firm ByteDance, now has 12 months to sell the app to a US concern or face a complete ban.


Ex-US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said he is already forming a group of investors to acquire the social media app, which has 170 million users in the US.

However, according to The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government has already said it intends to block the forced sale, while TikTok boss Shou Chew has said the company will challenge the law on First Amendment grounds, calling it “unconstitutional”.

“We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail,” TikTok said in a statement.

“The fact is, we have invested billions of dollars to keep US data safe and our platform free from outside influence and manipulation. This ban would devastate 7 million businesses and silence 170 million Americans. As we continue to challenge this unconstitutional ban, we will continue investing and innovating to ensure TikTok remains a space where Americans of all walks of life can safely come to share their experiences, find joy, and be inspired.”

Numerous governments around the world – including Australia – have already banned TikTok for government use, citing fears of undue Chinese government influence over the social media giant and possible misuse of the vast amounts of user data the app collects.

However, while the new law targets TikTok specifically, some observers feel social media, in general, needs to be kept under tighter control.

“Passage of the new TikTok law only addresses part of the challenge posed by social media to Americans’ security. The Chinese government’s access to TikTok user data is no doubt a threat to our national security, but what’s also concerning are the active cyber threats posed by most social media platforms to their users,” said Amit Yoran, chairman and chief executive at Tenable.

“It’s unacceptable that social media applications are still unregulated and continue to broadly collect vast amounts of sensitive user data, such as active locations, contact information, birthdates, personal interests, and user photos. With AI, this kind of personal information can be co-opted much faster to cause interference and influence. Social media companies need to take immediate action to better protect user data or expect to face regulatory oversight.”

Taking time out from his own free-speech battles with Australian politicians, X owner Elon Musk has said he does not support any ban on TikTok.

“TikTok should not be banned in the USA, even though such a ban may benefit the X platform,“ Musk said in a post on X.

“Doing so would be contrary to freedom of speech and expression.”

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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