US Senate sends Joe Biden approved bill to force sale of TikTok

Bill to ban TikTok from US expected to be challenged in courts

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TikTok bill approved as part of $95bn US foreign aid package to Ukraine and Israel. — Reuters/File
TikTok bill approved as part of $95bn US foreign aid package to Ukraine and Israel. — Reuters/File

The United States Senate on Tuesday approved a legislation to ban video-sharing platform TikTok unless it divests from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, Al Jazeera reported.

This move allows US President Joe Biden to sign the bill into law, although its expected to be challenged in the courts.

The proposal, which would give ByteDance nine months to sell the platform, was included in a larger $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel.

The Senate voted 79-18 to approve the package while the House of Representatives passed the package on Saturday in a 360-58 bipartisan vote.

The vote follows the Congress approval of the reauthorisation of a controversial programme allowing the surveillance of US citizens’ communications without a judicial warrant.

Additionally, both Republicans and Democrats have argued that TikTok threatens national security by allowing Beijing to "spy" on Americans and "manipulate" public debate.

However, TikTok denies their claims.

In a statement on Sunday, TikTok said the bill to force its sales "would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans".

The company may seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of the law pending a challenge to its constitutionality.

Last year, a judge in Montana, US, blocked a similar ban after finding it "oversteps state power" and "likely violates the First Amendment".

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

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