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On Mar. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 7521, also called the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.” The bill would ban the popular social media app, TikTok, unless it is sold to a U.S.-owned company. The bill passed by a vote of 352-65, with 50 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting against it.

If the bill goes through, app stores and websites could no longer have TikTok available on their platforms.

The motivation behind the bill, according to lawmakers, is in the interest of national security. Those on Capitol Hill in favor of the bill have concerns regarding privacy, data security and election meddling due to TikTok’s ownership by Chinese company ByteDance.

The House of Representatives expressed concern that the Chinese government could demand data from TikTok leaving the owners with no choice but to comply. Lawmakers have argued that an American company owning the app would make it much safer and help protect the public’s data from being stolen.

However, critics, such as Min Ye at BU Today have pointed out that lawmakers have not provided much evidence of national security concerns regarding the app.

Top employees at TikTok have said that they have not and would not ever sell or share data with the Chinese government. As the Associated Press mentions, despite some senators pushing for the declassification of more information for the public, there has been no evidence shared by the U.S. government thus far that proves TikTok has shared any data.

China’s foreign ministry has called the bill an “act of bullying” and said that they “won’t allow a forced sale of TikTok,” further complicating the issue.

Many users of the app have fought back against this bill, expressing concern about the censorship that would take place through the banning of TikTok.

Activists, educators and content creators alike all use the app to spread their messages to the public. Banning the app takes away a popular outlet for this expression.

Lawmakers, such as Adam Schiff, Elissa Slotkin and North Carolina Congressman Jeff Jackson, have faced criticism for voting in favor of banning the app, despite previously using it to grow voter support amongst young people.

Jackson, in particular, faced heavy backlash from his vote and later posted a video to TikTok saying, “Half the country is on this app. It has become a force for good in the lives of millions of people…the reason I voted for it was because I genuinely believe the chance of a ban is practically zero for a lot of reasons.”

Spokespeople for TikTok have pointed to the economic impact of the app saying, “7 million small businesses” use their app. Additionally, a study done by Oxford Economics found, “TikTok drove $14.7 billion in revenue for small-business owners last year and contributed $24.2 billion to U.S. gross domestic product.”

The backlash in regards to the bill has been so intense that Capitol Police have reported increased threats against lawmakers. This is not the first time a ban on TikTok in the U.S. has been discussed. In 2020, former President Trump signed an executive order that attempted to ban the app, but courts blocked the order from going through.

Although H.R. 7521 still has to pass in the Senate, President Biden has said he would sign the bill. If the bill does go into effect, ByteDance will have 180 days to find an American buyer.