TikTok ban bill gets a shot in the arm

The TikTok bill is moving along with a tried-and-true strategy in U.S. politics: group a contentious bill with a bunch of unrelated stuff that’s more likely to pass. 

What happened: Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take another run at a bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest the app or face a ban. The House passed a similar bill last month, but the Senate has been reluctant to bring it for a vote.

  • This version has been slipped into a package of other bills that authorize more aid for Ukraine and Israel. Since the Senate is eager to pass that, it could clear hurdles for the TikTok bill.

Catch-up: Lawmakers are fretting about TikTok’s potential national security risks. TikTok isn’t the only social app that collects tons of user data, but the worry is that China could force the company to turn over such data or use TikTok’s huge influence to sway public opinion.

Why it matters: If the bill passes, many feel a ban is all but inevitable, which would likely leave a big vacuum of cultural, societal, and political influence. That’s because ByteDance’s options for getting TikTok off its books are all pretty unlikely to happen. 

  • No one that could afford TikTok wants a regulator fight, ByteDance doesn’t have enough time to spin TikTok off with an IPO, and any deal that does work out could be blocked by China.

Yes, but: Even if the bill passes, it is probably going to face various challenges from TikTok, its users, and even free speech advocates. So whatever U.S. lawmakers want to happen could still be a long way from playing out. —JK