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Biden signs potential U.S. TikTok ban into law

TikTok on mobile phone via Shutterstock
The clock is ticking on TikTok's U.S. operation.

TikTok currently has 270 days to divest its U.S. operation or face a ban here.

A provision of a Senate bill authorizing $95 billion in military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan which President Joe Biden signed into law on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 requires TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to divest its U.S. TikTok operation in 270 days, or else U.S. app stores and Internet hosting services will not be allowed to support TikTok or any other ByteDance apps.  

The provision also applies to applications operated by any other social media company that is controlled by a "foreign adversary" and has been determined by the president to present a "significant threat to national security."

TikTok operates an e-commerce store in the U.S., partners with numerous U.S. retailers, and was ranked the second-most-used social platform by American teens by the Pew Research Center. However, the Biden administration had been continuing to express serious regulatory concerns, which began under the previous Trump administration. 

Citing possible connections between TikTok parent company ByteDance and the Chinese Communist Party, the Trump administration had been actively attempting to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless it established a separate business with at least partial U.S. ownership.

In December 2022, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. And in May 2023, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed legislation that would make Montana the first state in the U.S. to completely ban any mobile app store from providing TikTok to any users in the state, but it is currently on hold by a federal judge's order. 

Both TikTok and the Chinese government have publicly denied any security risks for U.S. users, and TikTok has indicated it will challenge the provision requiring divestiture in court on grounds it violates Constitutional freedom of speech guarantees. 

However, TikTok may already be taking a new look at creating a separate U.S. operation that would include Walmart and Oracle. Media reports have also indicated that U.S.-based buyer groups including celebrities such as “Shark Tank” star and venture capital investor Kevin O’Leary and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are considering making offers to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operation.

Interestingly, both Trump and Biden have publicly contradicted themselves in regard to their opposition to TikTok. In a recent recent CNBC interview, former President Donald Trump, who pushed TikTok to divest its U.S. business during his presidential term, said a U.S. TikTok ban would serve to make Facebook parent Meta bigger and called Facebook an “enemy of the people.”

And although Biden signed the bill requiring ByteDance to divest TikTok in the U.S. or face a ban, his presidential campaign recently opened a TikTok account promoting his candidacy.

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