President Joe Biden Signs TikTok Ban Bill Following Senate Approval, Leaving Users In The U.S. To Wonder What Happens Next

April 24th, 2024 - 3:54 PM EDT by Aidan Walker

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Joe Biden with his hand outstretched and the TikTok logo and Soulja Boy's response to the news.

The long-awaited TikTok ban or divestment bill has been signed into law despite the protests of many of the app's users and other advocates online.

Citing national security concerns over China's control of TikTok and the data of its users, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate joined together yesterday to attach the bill to the larger national defense bill offering aid to Ukraine and Israel. President Joe Biden then signed it on earlier this morning.

The law will give Bytedance, TikTok's parent company, nine months to sell the app to an American entity, or else be banned on app stores in the U.S. This is three months longer than the six-month timeline given in the version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives in March, placing the start of a possible TikTok ban just after the November elections.

TikTok responded to the ban with a video by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, declaring "we aren't going anywhere" and claiming "the facts and the constitution are on our side, and we will prevail again."

Back in 2020, when former President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok by executive order and American companies Oracle and Walmart offered to buy it, courts stopped the forced sale from going through.

What happens next is an open question. TikTok could be sold to an American company, but analysts say it is unlikely that China will allow this, and the Chinese government has the final say on what Bytedance does. Even if China does allow the sale of TikTok, it would probably be without the algorithm attached, due to an export control law that forbids the sale of sensitive Chinese software to foreign companies.

Last Friday, China ordered Apple to pull Meta's Threads and WhatsApp from the Chinese version of the App Store, citing national security threats. Much of the Chinese internet is already behind the so-called Great Firewall, which bans most American social media platforms.

But banning a social media platform doesn't mean people won't use it. Many Chinese access foreign social media platforms using services like VPN, and the same will likely be true of Americans and TikTok if the ban comes into effect. If it's already downloaded on devices, odds are it will remain there.

Additionally, because the U.S. (unlike China) has a government bound by the rule of law, a TikTok ban would face legal challenges that would likely delay its implementation. Both TikTok itself and the ACLU have promised to sue on First Amendment grounds, meaning the ban will likely be tangled up in litigation for months if not years.

On TikTok, creators and politicians responded to the news in droves, raising concerns about the precedent it set for government control of the internet.

Representative Jamaal Bowman argued on TikTok that the app was being "singled out" and social media needed broader reforms that served citizens on the app and protected them. Many shared how important the app has been for their businesses, self-education and creative expression.

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