President Biden signs bill to ban TikTok across United States

Congress has passed a new act that will ban the social networking app TikTok, if it is not sold by Chinese parent company ByteDance.

Following the introduction of the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (PAFACA) in March, the bill has passed the House of Representatives, agreed to by the Senate, and finally signed into law by President Biden on April 24. 

The ban will occur 270 days following its signing, with a possible extension of 90 days, totaling 360 days. The bill will not be applicable if TikTok is sold and no longer determined by the president to be controlled by a foreign adversary of the United States. 

TikTok has come under legal controversy since 2020, when American national security lawmakers and officials warned that ByteDance has ties to China. Further concern followed, as national security believed that the Chinese government could access users’ data to spy on Americans.  

Efforts to ban the app were stalled in 2021, after President Biden entered office. 

In January 2020, the United States Army and Navy banned the app on government devices, and the app has been banned for state government agencies, employees and contractors in over half of the country. 

In March 2024, a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that propaganda from China’s Communist Party (CCP) targeted candidates of the 2022 U.S. midterm election.  

When asked at a House of Representatives intelligence committee hearing for CBS News, if the CCP would use TikTok to influence the 2024 U.S. Presidential elections, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that they cannot rule out the CCP using it. 

Further national security concerns arose following a meeting between lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the ODNI, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, where the ODNI, DOJ, and FBI were told that China can spy on user’s microphones, app usage and other private data, although this is yet to be proven. 

Shou Zi Chew, chief executive of TikTok has appeared before congress multiple times since the security concerns arose. In March 2023, Chew, who is from Singapore, told lawmakers “ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government,” however this did little to gain the trust of congress.  

In January 2024, CEOs of X (formerly known as Twitter), Meta, Snapchat, TikTok and Discord were all called up to Senate over concerns about child safety on their services. Halfway through the hearing, the topic of TikTok’s country of origin arose. 

At that time, Chew was asked if he was a member of the CCP and where his passport was from. Despite the questioning, Chew was adamant that TikTok has no relationship with China. 

In 2023, a spike in pro-Palestine content appeared over TikTok following the bombing of the Gaza Strip, resulting in multiple representatives and senators accusing the app of pushing pro-Hamas propaganda. In a blogpost on TikTok’s newsroom, the company denied any intentional boosting, citing the algorithmic nature of user’s feed. 

For many people, TikTok serves as a social platform that supports growing a brand or following, with many businesses using it to bolster their public image. It has become the main source of income for certain creators, especially for live streamers. 

“TikTok is the foundation of my growth,” said Noah Jay Wood to Forbes. Wood has over 7.2 million followers on the app, which is far greater than he has on any other social platform. 

TikTok also serves as an e-commerce market, with TikTok Shop opening in November 2022. Companies are able to advertise their products on TikTok’s normal platform and sell on TikTok Shop within the app.  

Many large businesses will be able to move to other platforms that have e-commerce markets, such as Instagram, however, many small businesses may struggle if TikTok is banned. 

Some local businesses that advertise on TikTok includes Jade Lounge, Dead Ahead Vintage, and Double Up Tacoma. Jade Lounge frequently use TikTok trends to advertise their store, with their most popular video reaching over 50,000 views. Dead Ahead Vintage and Double Up Tacoma both use TikTok to advertise pop up events selling clothing.

Deborah Mayer, who sells handbags out of her New Jersey home, was recruited by TikTok to move her shop to TikTok Shop’s live section. She estimates that 60% of her revenue comes from TikTok.  

“We put a lot of time and effort building up this platform. It would be a year of work down the drain,” Mayer said to the Associated Press. 

With the bill now signed into law by President Biden, it is unclear what the future of TikTok will be, and the potential implications that a ban may have on popular culture and American businesses. 

Phone displaying TikTok. Photo by Elissa Blankenship.

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