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Biden backs bill that could kill TikTok in the US, TikTok fights back

A hot potato: Following the introduction of new legislation this week aimed at effectively shutting down TikTok, the situation has quickly escalated. TikTok sent mass messages to its users, encouraging them to lobby their representatives. Additionally, while discussing the new bill, President Biden informed reporters, “If they pass it, I’ll sign it.”

Earlier this week, we reported on new legislation that gives “foreign adversary controlled” apps like TikTok six months to sever ties with said foreign adversaries or face significant fines and potentially a total shutdown. The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act explicitly names TikTok and parent company, ByteDance, and states that it “shall be unlawful for an entity to distribute, maintain, or update” the app, unless ByteDance divests itself of TikTok within 180 days.

Failure to comply could result in a “civil penalty” of up to $5,000 per US user. With TikTok claiming up to 170 million such users, the fines could theoretically reach as much as $850 billion.

The situation has further escalated. Speaking about the bill on Friday, President Biden told reporters, “If they pass it, I’ll sign it,” showing presidential support for the bipartisan legislation. Although the bill is in its early stages, it passed an initial vote from the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously, 50-0, on Thursday.

However, TikTok is not backing down without a fight. Also on Thursday, the app sent push notifications to millions of US users, urging them to “Stop a TikTok shut down” by contacting their political representatives. The notification encouraged users to “Let Congress know what TikTok means to you and tell them to vote NO.”

According to NBC News, some members of Congress have been “inundated with calls from children and teenagers” who are advocating for the continuation of the app. Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi noted, “we had little children calling into our office asking questions like, ‘What is Congress? What is a congressman? Can I have my TikTok back?'”

The US has a population of 341 million, so if TikTok’s figure of 170 million users is reliable, then almost 50% of the population uses, or has used, the app to some degree. It remains to be seen if public lobbying on behalf of TikTok will have any impact on the legislation’s journey through Congress.

The Act is set to go to the House floor this week but must receive two-thirds approval to pass.

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