US House Panel Approves Bill That Could Ban TikTok; Users Flood Congress With Calls After App Sends Pop-up Messages

By Jace Dela Cruz

Mar 08, 2024 02:16 AM EST

A controversial bill that could potentially block TikTok in the United States (US) was unanimously approved by a bipartisan panel of lawmakers on Thursday.

Lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee voted 50-0 to advance the bill, setting it up for a possible full vote soon.

This photograph taken on March 7, 2024 in Nantes, shows the logo of Chinese social media platform TikTok.
(Photo : LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

Will TikTok Be Blocked in the US?

According to CNBC, under the proposed legislation, TikTok would be required to cut ties with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, within six months or face being banned from apps and web hosting sites across the US.

Although the bill received unanimous support, lawmakers emphasized that the goal is not to eliminate TikTok but to prevent a Chinese firm from having access to a large amount of American data.

Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers highlighted the bill's specific target, emphasizing its focus on national security concerns related to data collection rather than content moderation.

House Speaker Mike Johnson endorsed the bill as a crucial bipartisan measure to take on "our largest geopolitical foe," which is China, that "is actively undermining our economy and security." 

President Joe Biden has also backed the bill, urging lawmakers to pass it. The White House has collaborated with lawmakers from both parties on the bill that addresses national security risks associated with TikTok.

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TikTok Urges Users to Oppose the Potential Ban

In response to the bill, TikTok launched a campaign urging users to engage with Congress and oppose the potential ban. The company took the unusual step of pushing a pop-up to an undetermined number of American users, urging them to call their representatives to "stop a TikTok shutdown."

Some users said the app asked for their zip code, provided their Congress member's name and proposed that they reach out. TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek told Forbes that the pop-up messages went out to users over 18 years old but did not provide information about how many users had seen the message.

The notification triggered a flood of calls to congressional offices. Eight congressional aides told The Washington Post that individual House offices have since received hundreds of calls from TikTok users. Two sources noted that the huge volume of calls caused some offices to resort to temporarily shutting off phones.

Lawmakers viewed TikTok's action as indicative of the platform's ability to locate Americans, disseminate misinformation, and influence political processes, in addition to gathering user data.

Representative Mike Gallagher, who introduced the measure, said the notification was an "example of an adversary-controlled application lying to the American people and interfering with the legislative process in Congress," the Washington Post reported.

READ MORE: TikTok And Universal Music Group Clashes Over AI-Generated Music

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