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Biden signs legislation threatening to ban TikTok unless Chinese owner sells the social media platform

LEGISLATION to ban social media platform TikTok in the United States unless it is sold by its Chinese owner was signed into law by President Joe Biden last night.

Passed by the Senate late on Tuesday, the measure is part of a $95 billion (£76.3bn) package of war aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan approved by 79 votes to 18.

Republicans in the House of Representatives decided last week to attach the TikTok Bill to the war funding package after negotiations with the Senate, where an earlier version of the measure had stalled.

The revised legislation extends the deadline for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to sell up from six months to nine, with a possible three-month extension if a sale is in progress.

ByteDance will also be barred controlling the algorithm that feeds videos to TikTok users based on their interests and has made the platform a trendsetting phenomenon.

US administration officials and legislators have long claimed that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over data on US users or influence them by suppressing or promoting certain content on TikTok.

“Congress is acting to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, maligned operations, harming vulnerable Americans, our servicemen and women and our US government personnel,” said Senate commerce committee chairwoman Maria Cantwell.

However, opponents of the Bill say the Chinese government could easily get information on US citizens in other ways, including through commercial data brokers that traffic in personal information.

The foreign aid package, which includes a provision banning data brokers from selling or renting “personally identifiable sensitive data” to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran or entities in those countries, has been criticised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which warns that it is too broad and could hit journalists and others who publish personal information.

Many opponents of the TikTok measure argue the best way to protect US consumers is through implementing a comprehensive federal data privacy law that targets all companies regardless of their origin.

They also note the US has not provided public evidence of TikTok sharing US user information with Chinese authorities or that Chinese officials have ever tinkered with its algorithm.

China has vowed to oppose a forced sale of TikTok and the platform, which has long denied posing a security threat, is also preparing a lawsuit against the legislation.

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