Measure seeking sale or closure of TikTok passes with House foreign aid bill

The House of Representatives on Saturday passed a bill that would ban TikTok unless Chinese company ByteDance sells the platform. The bill was attached to a larger foreign aid plan, almost guaranteeing the Senate would approve it. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI

April 20 (UPI) -- A potential U.S. ban of the popular social media video app TikTok inched closer to reality Saturday after the House passed the legislation tucked within a long-sought foreign aid package.

The bill, if ultimately approved by Congress, would give Chinese tech company ByteDance up to a year to sell TikTok or else the app will be banned in the United States.

The House passed the bill with a bipartisan 360-58 vote. It now heads to the Senate where a similar version, which only gave ByteDance six months to divest the app, has stalled.

Previous efforts aimed at TikTok have failed, but this time the bill was attached to a package of hotly contested foreign aid bills that would give a combined $95 billion to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The House on Saturday voted separately to approve all four bills before combining them into one bill for the Senate to approve.

"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, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually," Tiktok said Wednesday in a post on X.

TikTok for weeks has called on users to urge Congress not to pass the legislation.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have expressed fears that the Chinese Communist Party could force the app to hand over user's personal information.

There is yet no public evidence the Chinese government is using the app to spy on U.S. citizens, although TikTok has mishandled user data for top advertisers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed the legislation on the grounds that it would restrict Americans' right to free speech and could impact business owners who rely on the app.

The first social media ban in the United States also could ignite an intense legal battle. TikTok has indicated it would sue to block the legislation.