Hageman Votes To Ban TikTok In The U.S. If Chinese Owner Doesn’t Sell

Wyoming congresswoman Harriet Hageman voted in support of legislation Wednesday that would ban the use of TikTok in America as long as it’s owned by a Chinese company. "TikTok is a clear and present danger to our national security,” she said.

Leo Wolfson

March 13, 20245 min read

Hageman and Tik Tok 3 13 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman voted Wednesday to ban the use of social media applications like TikTok in the U.S. if they’re owned by companies in countries considered by the U.S. as adversaries.

The biggest target of the legislation is TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which would be required to either sell the hugely popular video app or face a blackout in the United States.

“With user data on millions of Americans and over 210 million downloads in the United States, TikTok is a clear and present danger to our national security,” Hageman said in a Wednesday press release. “Due to the structure of laws governing business under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), this user data is not only available to parent company ByteDance, but also to the Chinese government.”

The bill passed the House with wide bipartisan support on a 352-65 vote Wednesday. It will next move to the Senate for consideration.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis told Cowboy State Daily she supports the legislation.

“I am concerned by any social media company that collects large amounts of data on Americans, but I’m particularly concerned when that data has the potential to be weaponized by the CCP,” Lummis said. “If TikTok wants to continue operating in the U.S., it must sever ties with companies under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Sen. John Barrasso feels similarly.

“There are serious concerns about the national security risks posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) using TikTok to spy on Americans," he said. "We shouldn’t serve up the private data of millions of Americans for one of our biggest adversaries to harvest.”

Trump And Biden

President Joe Biden’s administration supports the bill and has argued that Chinese ownership of the platform poses a grave national security risk for America, particularly on elections.

Former President Donald Trump has taken a different stance, opposing the legislation and saying he doesn’t want to alienate young voters or empower Facebook, a social media application he vehemently opposes.

If passed, the legislation could hold major implications for national security, free speech and the social media industry.

China has fallen under increasing scrutiny in recent years as relations between it and the U.S. have become more hostile over concerns over spying and economic oppression.

The bill prohibits marketplaces, like app stores and web hosting services, from hosting applications owned by companies located in countries designated as foreign adversaries of the U.S, including China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Is It Bad?

TikTok executives have argued their company retains private independence from the Chinese government and hasn’t, and will not, spy for the CCP.

The company recently attempted to mobilize its 170 million U.S. users against the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act by telling them to call on Congress members to fight the ban.

But the CCP has shown an increasing propensity to punish business executives in that country for not toeing the party line. While there’s no proven evidence that TikTok is following orders from the CCP, there is also no U.S. law requiring online platforms to explain how they moderate content or use automated tools. There is also no law forcing platforms to be audited or subject to external scrutiny.

“The potential for nefarious uses, spying and manipulation of data is of significant concern,” Hageman said in the press release. “We have often talked about Communist China’s land ownership in America being a threat to our security – this data ownership is equally dangerous.”

In late 2022, Gov. Mark Gordon forbid and blocked TikTok from being used on all state government devices and networks. He did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment on the House bill.

Not A Flat Out Ban

The legislation would not ban TikTok outright, but would require ByteDance to divest from the company and sell off to an American-based ownership group, or owner from another country the U.S. does not view as an adversary.

The president, in coordination with all executive branch agencies including the national security and intelligence agencies and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, would sign off on the sale if it resolved national security concerns. If no sale happens, TikTok would be banned.

“For users of TikTok, this legislation does not ‘ban’ the app, but rather forces the Chinese Communist Party controlled ByteDance to divest of its ownership stake in the app,” Hageman explained.

Under the legislation, no enforcement action can be taken against individual users of a banned application. The act does not provide any authority related to domestic entities that are not controlled by a foreign adversary.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter