US Senate Approves Conditional Ban on TikTok; Legal Battle Looms Ahead

Following the lead of the House of Representatives, the US Senate has passed a bill imposing a conditional ban on TikTok, the popular social media app owned by ByteDance. The bill stipulates that ByteDance must sell TikTok to an American company within one year, failing which the app will face a ban.

With a vote of 79 in favor and 18 against, the Senate’s approval of the bill adds momentum to the legislative effort aimed at addressing national security concerns associated with TikTok. The bill, initially passed by Congress on April 20, is now poised to be sent to President Joe Biden for final approval.

Under the provisions of the law, if TikTok remains under ByteDance’s ownership beyond the specified timeframe, it will be removed from both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store in the US, effectively restricting access to American users.

In response to the looming threat of the ban, TikTok has announced its intention to challenge the legality of the bill in court. Michael Beckerman, head of TikTok’s public policy department in the US, conveyed this message to employees in a memo, asserting the company’s commitment to defend the rights of its 170 million US users and safeguard the interests of 7 million small businesses reliant on the platform.

Beckerman condemned the bill as a blatant infringement on TikTok users’ rights and warned of its potentially devastating impact on businesses. He emphasized TikTok’s determination to continue the fight against the ban, framing it as the beginning of a protracted legal battle rather than its culmination.

TikTok’s readiness to contest the ban in court is underscored by its past legal victories against state-level bans in the US. In 2023, a federal court invalidated a ban on TikTok imposed in the state of Montana, citing violations of users’ free speech rights.

The clash between TikTok and the US government reflects longstanding tensions surrounding national security concerns attributed to the app. While the US government perceives TikTok as a threat, ByteDance has endeavored to allay these apprehensions through ongoing dialogue and assurances regarding the app’s security measures.

As the legal battle unfolds, the fate of TikTok in the US hangs in the balance, with implications not only for the app’s millions of users and businesses but also for the broader landscape of digital governance and national security in the modern era.