Biden Vows To Sign TikTok Ban Into Law

Beijing insists it would have to approve any forced sale of the social media giant

President Joe Biden has pledged to sign a bill threatening to ban TikTok should its Chinese parent firm fail to divest from the platform. The proposed crackdown enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, and is expected to be fast-tracked for a vote as soon as next week.

Asked whether he would enact the legislation as he headed out for a campaign event on Friday, Biden told reporters “If they pass it, I’ll sign it,” echoing recent comments from the White House, which has welcomed the bill.

Introduced last week by GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher – who chairs the House committee on China – and Democratic Rep.Raja Krishnamoorthi, the legislation would order TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to divest its shares from the company within six months or face an effective ban in the US. The bill was reportedly drafted with “technical support” from administration staffers, and passed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously last Thursday with bipartisan backing.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, a supporter of the potential ban, has signaled the measure would come to a full House vote sometime next week.

Beijing has repeatedly condemned efforts to target TikTok and other Chinese companies, with the country’s Commerce Ministry warning a ban would “seriously damage” the confidence of global investors. Asked about a possible forced sale of TikTok last year, ministry spokeswoman Shu Jueting said China would “firmly oppose it,” suggesting the People’s Republic might even attempt to veto the move.

“The Chinese government will make a decision in accordance with the law,” she added.

Though former President Donald Trump pursued his own TikTok crackdown in 2020, the GOP presidential frontrunner appeared to reverse his stance on Thursday, voicing opposition to the new bill.

“If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckershmuck will double their business,” Trump wrote in a social media post, referring to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!”

While Trump had signed an August 2020 executive order which also called on ByteDance to divest from TikTok and threatened to ban the platform outright, Biden rescinded the order after taking office. Nonetheless, he asked the Commerce Department to determine whether the popular app posed a “national security threat” to the United States, and later banned TikTok on federal devices.

A number of US agencies, including the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission, have sounded alarms about the alleged risks posed by TikTok, warning that sensitive user data could be shared with the Chinese government.

TikTok has rejected those charges, insisting it would be “physically impossible for any government, including the Chinese government, to get access to US user data” given the protections in place. The platform later denounced the new divestment bill, calling it “an outright ban of TikTok” that would “trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans.”

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute. Find more of his work at Consortium News and ZeroHedge.