TikTok Faces Potential U.S. Ban As Joe Biden Signs National Security Bill; CEO Vows Court Fight And Says “Facts And The Constitution Are On Our Side”

UPDATE: President Joe Biden signed a massive national security bill that requires that ByteDance divest TikTok or face a ban on app stores as soon as nine months from now.

Biden gave remarks after signing the bill, highlighting the $95 billion outlay for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

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He did not mention the provision on TikTok, the popular social media platform that has raised concerns that the Chinese government would get access to user information.

In a video posted on X/Twitter, TikTok CEO Shou Chew said that the new law was “obviously a disappointing moment, but it does not need to be a defining one.”

“Rest assured, we are not going anywhere,” he said, adding that they would challenge the law in the courts.

“The facts and the Constitution are on side, and we expect to prevail again,” he said.

ByteDance has nine months to sell TikTok or face a ban, but the president can also extend that timeframe by three more months.

NBC News reported that Biden’s presidential campaign plans to continue using the app, despite the new law. The president himself appeared in a social media video tied to Super Bowl Sunday.

PREVIOUSLY: The Senate passed legislation that will force ByteDance to divest TikTok of face a ban on app stores.

The TikTok restrictions were part of a $95 billion national security package that includes aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

President Joe Biden plans to sign the bill.

The vote was 79-18.

In a statement, Biden said, “I will sign this bill into law and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk tomorrow so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week. The need is urgent: for Ukraine, facing unrelenting bombardment from Russia; for Israel, which just faced unprecedented attacks from Iran; for refugees and those impacted by conflicts and natural disasters around the world, including in Gaza, Sudan, and Haiti; and for our partners seeking security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

TikTok has suggested that it would challenge the legislation in court, as it has waged a lobbying campaign focused on the notion that the potential ban would take away free speech rights of the platform’s creators.

But lawmakers have focused on TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and the potential for the Beijing government to demand user data.

In an interview today with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that ByteDance “is beholden to the Chinese government and so when Americans stop and think about how do they feel about the power, the access, the capability, the control that TikTok has, they need to be thinking about it in terms of how do they feel about that same power, access, capability, control in the hands of TikTok’s parent in Chinese government, and ultimately in the Chinese intelligence service.”

PREVIOUSLY, April 27: The fate of TikTok in the United States is even more uncertain as the House today voted on a package that requires that parent ByteDance divest its popular social media platform or face a ban on app stores.

Lawmakers passed the bill 360-58, part of a series of votes to break a six-month standoff over a $95 billion aid package to Ukraine as well as to Israel and to Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. House members overwhelming passed the additional funding to those countries and regions, including $60.8 billion to Ukraine. That part of the legislative package passed the House 311-112.

The TikTok portion of the legislative package revises previous legislation by extending the time by which Chinese-owned ByteDance could sell the platform. A previous bill that cleared the House earlier this year gave ByteDance less than six months to do so.

The potential TikTok ban was part of a bill that included a long list of national security priorities, including the authorization of the sale of Russian assets and mandatory sanctions of Hamas.

The Senate is expected to take up the package of bills, including Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid, next week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. The package also includes humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Prospects appear to be good for passage, and it is unclear what TikTok will do next, and whether it or users would challenge the legislation on First Amendment grounds. The company said in a statement earlier this week, “It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually.”

But revisions to the previous legislation helped convince a key lawmaker, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), to support the new legislation. She said in a statement that “extending the divestment period is necessary to ensure there is enough time for a new buyer to get a deal done.”

TikTok has 170 million users in the United States. Lawmakers have warned of the prospect of the Chinese government getting access to users’ data. TikTok has denied such a scenario, while emphasizing the fact that ByteDance’s investors include American investment entities.

The $60.8 billion in aid to Ukraine has been held up since last year, as a group of hard-right Republicans oppose further funding of the country’s war with Russia. In February, the Senate passed a $95 billion national security package that included aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but has languished in the House as Speaker Mike Johnson faced a revolt from members of the Republican caucus. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), an opponent of the Ukraine aid, has filed a motion to vacate Johnson from the speaker’s chair, but she has not yet forced a vote on his removal.

Greene told CNN’s Manu Raju said that she was not moving forward yet on whether to remove Johnson, and instead wanted lawmakers to go back home during a recess next week to hear from their constituents.

“This is the sellout of America today,” she said, cursing once on air as she talked to Raju and other reporters live from the steps of the Capitol.

Johnson did scold Democrats for waving mini-Ukrainian flags on the floor after that portion of the aid package passed, but told reporters of the overall national security package, “If we turn our backs now, the consequences could be devastating.”

“Make no mistake, this is not a blank check like the Senate supplemental bill was,” he said.

Still, a majority of the Republican caucus voted against additional aid to Ukraine, with 101 GOP members voting yes and 112 voting no. All 210 Democrats present voted for it.

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