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President Biden has signed the TikTok ban. Now what?

President Biden has signed a law requiring TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the video-sharing service to a US company or face removal from US app stores, sparking a bipartisan effort to ban the app across the country.

No TikTok sign over government building.
Image: KnowTechie

President Biden has signed a law requiring TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the video-sharing service to a US company or face removal from US app stores.

The measure comes into law less than two weeks after Congress rolled the TikTok ban into an appropriations bill that set aside financial funding and other aid for military conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.

Incorporating the TikTok ban into the military funding bill effectively forced Congress lawmakers to fast-track the TikTok issue, and President Biden affirmed his intention to sign it into law.

He did just that on Wednesday, putting ByteDance on notice that they had about a year to find an American company willing to buy TikTok.

Logo of TikTok superimposed on the United States Capitol Building under a clear blue sky.
Image: KnowTechie

If ByteDance can’t find a suitor in time or simply decides not to comply with the law, app stores in the United States will not be allowed to offer TikTok for download.

American lawmakers on both sides of the aisle paint TikTok as a national security threat, claiming the app harvests vast amounts of data from U.S.-based users. That data is later stored and scrutinized by Chinese government officials, lawmakers say, though little evidence has been made public to support those claims.

For its part, ByteDance says it safeguards the personal data of its users and doesn’t share that information with Chinese government officials.

However, there have been instances where some ByteDance and TikTok employees spied on journalists in an effort to learn their sources after unflattering information about the company was disclosed in news reports.

The TikTok situation is one of the few that has managed to unite federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle

The movement to ban TikTok started under the administration of former President Donald Trump. In 2020, Trump signed an Executive Order banning business transactions between TikTok and U.S. citizens and companies—a move largely intended to choke off American advertising dollars

The ban on TikTok began during former President Donald Trump’s administration. In 2020, he issued an Executive Order prohibiting business dealings between TikTok and U.S. entities, mainly to cut off American advertising revenue.

TikTok immediately filed a legal challenge to Trump’s executive order. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed after President Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order the following year.

But the heat on TikTok did not go away, and both state and federal lawmakers have been working to chip away at TikTok’s apparent surveillance activities in the United States since then.

President Biden has taken several actions independently, issuing orders that prevent TikTok from being installed on phones, tablets, and other devices used by federal agencies.

Last year, the Pentagon issued an order that banned TikTok on all devices used by Department of Defense contractors and employees.

Some local governments have also moved to ban TikTok: Last year, KnowTechie reported on a measure passed by lawmakers in Montana to prevent U.S.-based app stores from offering TikTok for download.

The law proposed financial fines against American technology companies that allowed TikTok to be downloaded by Montana residents and business owners. A federal judge blocked the law one month before it was to take effect.

The law signed by President Biden on Wednesday is the biggest attempt to ban TikTok across the country. It gives ByteDance about 270 days (about nine months) to find a new U.S.-based owner for TikTok, with the option for Biden to grant a 90-day extension if ByteDance can prove it is progressing toward that goal.

ByteDance is unlikely to comply with the law. Instead, company officials signaled their intention to sue the Biden Administration and request a preliminary injunction preventing the law from taking effect — similar to its actions in Montana.

Federal courts do not move quickly, and if ByteDance does sue — as it says it will — it could take several years before the dust settles on the matter. 

For now, nothing has changed — the app is still readily available in American app stores, and none of the major technology companies have signaled their intention to withdraw TikTok from their stores voluntarily. The service remains online and is still free to use at least, for now.

Will you continue to use TikTok, regardless of whether it’s banned or not? What’s your take on all this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matthew Keys is an award-winning freelance journalist who covers the intersection of media, technology and journalism. He is the publisher of and a contributor to KnowTechie, StreamTV Insider (formerly Fierce Video) and Digital Content Next. Matthew is based in Northern California.

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