TikTok says bill to force its sale would ‘trample’ free speech

TikTok has slammed a bill that would ban the video-sharing app in the United States if it does not divest from its Chinese owner, accusing lawmakers of trampling on citizens’ right to free speech.

“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,” TikTok said in a statement on Sunday.

TikTok issued the statement after the US House on Saturday passed the bill in a 360-58 bipartisan vote, sending the legislation to the Senate.

President Joe Biden has indicated he would sign the legislation, which was included in a broader package providing aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, if it comes before his desk.

Under the legislation, Chinese company ByteDance would have nine months to divest from the app, with the possibility of a three-month extension if the president believes there has been progress towards a sale.

Both Republicans and Democrats have claimed that TikTok threatens national security as the platform could be used by Beijing to spy on Americans and manipulate public debate.

TikTok has insisted it has not shared American users’ data with the Chinese government and that it never would.

Civil liberties organisations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, have opposed the proposals on free speech grounds.

 

A similar bill to force the sale of TikTok passed the House last month but has since been held up in the Senate.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban TikTok, but the move was blocked by the courts on the grounds that it violated free speech and due process rights.

<<ALJAZEERA>>