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TikTok could be banned from America, thanks to proposed bipartisan bill

The US government’s crackdown on TikTok continues, with the latest salvo being a bipartisan bill that would outright ban the popular social media app from doing business in the country.

TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, which has led it to become a battleground for privacy advocates who argue that it could be used to spy on US citizens. Several US states have already banned the app on government-owned devices, while Indiana has sued TikTok for inflicting harm on residents. 

This latest legislation, spearheaded in the Senate by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and in the House by Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), would “block and prohibit all transactions … of a social media company” with at least one million users, and which is based or under the influence of countries the US considers foreign adversaries.

The bill [PDF] names TikTok and its parent company ByteDance as particular targets, but not the only ones – any company that meets the criteria would be subject to the bill’s restrictions.

Ta-ta, TikTok?

Multiple states have banned TikTok on government devices, while Rubio and Gallagher telegraphed their intentions in November with a joint Washington Post op-ed arguing for a total ban on TikTok in the US.

“In China, no company is truly private. Under the country’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all citizens and businesses are required to assist in intelligence work, which includes sharing data,” the pair said in the article

TikTok has denied allegations pertaining to the state-level bans, telling Reuters it was “disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok.”

There is at least some truth to the many rumors surrounding TikTok’s poor handling of US user data – the company admitted in July that some Chinese-based employees had access to the data of US-based users. 

The news came out of the discovery that US TikTok user data was being transmitted overseas to Chinese servers, which TikTok said at the time it would put an end to. Fast-forward to September, and the US government was still in discussions with TikTok to resolve security concerns, and it appears those discussions have slowed to a crawl as the chorus of anti-TikTok voices has grown louder.

TikTok hasn’t responded to The Register’s questions about the new ban bills, but Hilary McQuaide, TikTok’s global head of communications, told CNN it was “troubling” that members of Congress would push to end the Biden administration’s national security review of TikTok and implement a ban “that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”

McQuaide said TikTok was already beginning to implement security plans discussed with the US government, and would report the progress to Congress.

Rubio, unsurprisingly, isn’t convinced. “There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.” ®