Biden signs a bill that could ban TikTok — after the 2024 election – NBC News

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WASHINGTON — Tucked inside the sprawling $95 billion national security package that President Joe Biden’s signed Wednesday is a provision that could ban TikTok, with an important catch: It won’t happen before the 2024 election.
That means TikTok, which boasts 170 million American users, will remain a force throughout the campaign, providing a platform for candidates to reach predominantly younger voters. An earlier version of the bill could have banned the popular video-sharing app prior to the election, but recent changes mean lawmakers and Biden may not face such an immediate voter backlash.
The new legislation provides nine months for TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell it or face a nationwide prohibition in the United States. The president can grant a one-time extension of 90 days, bringing the timeline to sell to one year, if he certifies that there’s a path to divestiture and “significant progress” toward executing it.
Even without the extension, the earliest a ban could start is January 2025. With the extension, it would be April. And with TikTok threatening legal action, the matter could get tied up in the courts for even longer. It’s a shift from an earlier House-passed bill that included a six-month window that could have triggered a TikTok ban before the November election.
A senior Republican aide said Democrats were responsible for the change. “Senate Democrats had been pretty consistent about wanting to extend that timeline,” the aide said.
The election was “definitely” something “conveniently addressed” by the new deadline, said a Democratic source close to the issue.
Other Democrats are assuring voters that ByteDance would sooner sell TikTok than risk a U.S. ban, a view some experts disagree with.
“TikTok ain’t going away. There is no more capitalistic entity than an organization controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. They’re going to sell it,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Armed Services Committee, who faces re-election this fall. “Young people will go on their TikTok tomorrow and they’ll still have it. And then the day after that, they’ll still have it. And the day after that, they’ll still have it,” Kaine said, adding that the only difference is it would be American-owned. “If you like it, you’re going to keep it.”
In endorsing the revised TikTok bill, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said that extending ByteDance’s divestment period — what she called her “recommendation” — would help ensure there is “enough time for a new buyer to get a deal done.”
Other lawmakers who helped negotiate that change, including Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., agreed that the reason they pushed back the deadline was to improve the chances of a sale.
“This gives more time to make the divestment achievable,” said Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat on the special committee investigating the CCP. “It made a lot of sense. That’s why, as you could tell, we didn’t lose any votes because of the change. In fact, we gained some votes — we went from 352 to 360 votes in the House.”
TikTok gave no indication that it would consider divesting, with a spokesperson saying in a statement: “This unconstitutional law is a TikTok ban, and we will challenge it in court.”
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, sought to exploit a ban politically.
“Just so everyone knows, especially the young people, Crooked Joe Biden is responsible for banning TikTok,” Trump said on social media. “He is the one pushing it to close … Young people, and lots of others, must remember this on November 5th, ELECTION DAY, when they vote!”
It’s a flip-flop for the former president, who signed an executive order in August 2020 to ban TikTok in 45 days if it was not sold. His statement cited “the threat posed” by China with its ability under Chinese law to force the app to grant access to Americans’ data and its potential to manipulate the algorithm to advance Chinese propaganda — the same reasons Congress and Biden favor a ban.
But the executive order was blocked in court, and the app persisted.
“I have every expectation that TikTok will be alive and well, no matter who is president,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “Donald Trump is obviously trying to turn it into an election issue, but considering he was in favor of banning it, I think his warning is more baloney to use a polite word.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said opinions about TikTok and social media won’t “rival choice and democracy and immigration as a voting issue” in the 2024 election.
But Murphy said the political implications cut both ways.
“I am part of a group of pissed-off parents that feel that they’ve lost control of their kids’ lives. There’s undoubtedly another group of kids who are worried that they’re going to lose access to social media in the way that they have it now,” Murphy said. “But those are two very distinct voting groups and if you ignore the perils of social media, maybe you pick up some younger voters, but you lose some parents. So this is one of these issues where you have to see the full picture.”
Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., who voted against the TikTok ban over the weekend, said in an interview that there is a need to solve the national security and data concerns associated with the platform but added that banning TikTok would be disastrous for creators, organizers and activists.
“I think this is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, where we have people, communities that are able to organize, that are able to meet, that are able to find space for their businesses to grow” on TikTok, she said. “We need to actually think about what the consequences of that are, not political consequences alone, but the consequences holistically.”
A Republican working on Senate races said being tough on TikTok would have been an easier message to drive home in the campaign before Trump himself came out against the ban.
“It used to be a lot more straightforward,” this person said of how they could message against Democrats who use TikTok to campaign — which, despite Biden’s intention to sign the ban legislation, includes his campaign. “But Trump is on the other side now. It makes the whole thing a little murkier. The battle lines aren’t really clear.”
Still, the Republican believes that a looming ban could have a big impact on the campaign trail for Democrats who use TikTok, saying candidates are using it exclusively as a tool to reach voters.
“It’s really clear they think it’s an important tool in their toolbox,” this person said.
In front-line battleground Senate states, Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, and Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, have accounts on the platform. So, too, do Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego, of Arizona, and Colin Allred, of Texas, both running for Senate seats in competitive races this fall. All four voted in favor of the legislation that included the potential TikTok ban.
Speaking with the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” on Sunday, Casey expressed hope the legislation would spur TikTok’s parent company to sell its American assets to a U.S. owner.
“I don’t think any American wants to put our country further at risk when it comes to China,” he said, adding, “I know a lot of Americans rely upon TikTok, and that’s understandable because of the value that it can provide to a small-business owner or others who need TikTok to communicate.”
Brown’s campaign declined to comment. Campaigns for Gallego and Allred did not respond to requests for comment.
Biden’s campaign said only that the campaign is on TikTok, without saying whether it would remain on it, and noted that the president doesn’t have an official account on the platform.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked late Tuesday about a potential backlash to the TikTok crackdown, said: “Speaker Johnson put it in bill — the big supplemental bill. We had to get the supplemental bill passed as quickly as possible.”
Some of Biden’s allies disagree with him on a TikTok prohibition.
Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Biden campaign surrogate, said he opposes a TikTok ban, citing free speech rights.
“The longer timeline helps marginally in pushing the ban until after the election and the bill, in any case, is likely to get struck down by the courts,” he said. “But rushing to pass it shows the complete disconnect between the Beltway establishment and many Americans.”
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., offered some advice for election candidates navigating a voter backlash to a TikTok ban: “I would tell them to follow their heart but take their brain with them.”
Sahil Kapur is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.
Scott Wong is a senior congressional reporter for NBC News.
Allan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News.
© 2024 NBC UNIVERSAL

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