TikTok ban: US House of Representatives passes bill to force ByteDance to sell popular app or face block

a smartphone with the tiktok logo on-screen is pictured on a computer keyboard

TikTok could be blocked for 150 million Americans within the next six months as controversial draft legislation is approved for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 13/03/2024

- 15:00

Updated: 13/03/2024

- 15:31

Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act passed 352 to 65

  • US House of Representatives has approved the bill
  • TikTok parent firm ByteDance will now be forced to divest its video-sharing app
  • If the Beijing-based company fails to do so, TikTok will be blocked in the USA
  • Joe Biden confirmed he would sign bill if approved by both Houses
  • TikTok has spoken out against the legislation, saying it hurts free speech
  • Over 150 million Americans are on TikTok, the social media app confirmed

Over 150 million Americans could be left without access to TikTok in a matter of weeks.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that aims to strong-arm parent company ByteDance, which is headquartered in Beijing, to sell the social media sensation to a non-Chinese entity within 165 days — or face a total ban from app stores and web hosts in the United States.

US lawmakers fear Chinese law could compel TikTok's parent company ByteDance to hand over information on its American users, presenting a national security risk for millions of citizens. TikTok says it never stores US user information on servers in China.

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act was passed 352 to 65 on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon.

However, an outright TikTok ban is not a done deal. The draft legislation still needs to be passed in the second house and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has not confirmed whether it will even be put the bill to a vote.

A spokesperson for TikTok said: "This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: It’s a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize the impact on the economy, seven million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pictured at a lecture in a recent press conference

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hasn't committed to a vote on the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act yet


If approved in the Senate, US President Joe Biden has already confirmed that he'll sign the bill into law.

The legislation does leave a small loop-hole for TikTok — the company could swerve a ban in the United States if it splits from its Chinese parent ByteDance and becomes a standalone company.

Ahead of the vote, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused the American government of "suppressing TikTok". Speaking to the BBC, Mr Wang said: "This kind of bullying behaviour that cannot win in fair competition disrupts companies' normal business activity, damages the confidence of international investors in the investment environment, and damages the normal international economic and trade order. In the end, this will inevitably come back to bite the United States itself."

The controversial legislation would classify TikTok as a national security risk for American citizens, allowing the US government to block the popular social media service from app stores and web browsers for every citizen. Congressmen Mike Gallagher, a Republican, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, introduced the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act last week.

\u200ba male employee is pictured walking into the ByteDance headquarters in beijing

Employees walk into the ByteDance headquarters, which is located in the Chinese capital city Beijing


ByteDance is a Chinese technology company with its headquarters in Beijing.

The law accuses the firm, which was started back in 2012 but didn't launch TikTok until September 2017, of being backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Like many Chinese corporations, ByteDance has an internal Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committee, which sees Vice President Zhang Fuping serving as ByteDance's CCP Committee Secretary.

“This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users. America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States,” Congressmen Mike Gallagher said in a press release.

Raja Krishnamoorthi says the idea behind the draft legislation is to “protect American social media users […] from the digital surveillance and influence operations of regimes that could weaponise their personal data against them."

TikTok has blasted the proposed legislation, stating that it hurts free speech and the 5 million businesses that rely on the social media app every day. It has urged its users to call their representatives in Congress to voice opposition against the bill.

According to The New York Times, some Congressional phone lines have been overwhelmed due to the vast number of impassioned TiKTok users trying to voice their concerns. Some of the callers appeared to be teenagers, the article claims.

TikTok has long had a strained relationship with the US government. Donald Trump attempted to ban the app in the United States back in 2020, while Montana tried to impose a state-level ban in 2023.

Courts stepped-in and blocked both of those attempts, stating it violated the First Amendment. President Trump has since reversed his stance and now opposes a ban on TikTok.

ByteDance has previously confirmed that it has over 150 million users in the United States of America. In a press release published last year, it confirmed: "TikTok is a special place where Americans come together to learn, be entertained, grow their business, as they continue to create, discover and connect with a broader global community.

"Today, we're celebrating our mission as we continue to inspire creativity and bring joy across the United States for more than 150 million people. We're honoured to be a home for our immensely diverse community in the United States, made up of nearly half the country's population, including book lovers, foodies, families, emerging artists and so much more.


"This milestone would not have been possible without the hard work and unwavering commitment of almost 7,000 TikTok employees in the US, as well as our incredible community in the country and around the world."

The draft Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act could not only be used to block TikTok from web browsers and app stores for every US citizen. It could be used to block any social media apps run by foreign bodies that US lawmakers determine “pose a national security threat”.

This could pave the way for other applications to face the same threat as ByteDance — sell the asset to another company or face a full ban in one of the biggest markets on the planet.

You may like