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When would a TikTok ban go into effect?

TikTok’s future in U.S. remains unclear
Experts weigh in on possible outcomes for users if Senate bans TikTok in U.S. 04:34

Washington — Americans could lose access to TikTok within six months if a bill that seeks to force its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance to sell its stake is signed into law. But the popular video-sharing app's potential demise in the U.S. depends on whether the legislation can overcome a number of hurdles in Congress and survive legal scrutiny.

Lawmakers have long tried to regulate the platform because of its ties to China. They argue it threatens national security because the Chinese government could use TikTok to spy on Americans or weaponize it to covertly influence the U.S. public by amplifying or suppressing certain content. 

TikTok has repeatedly stated that it would deny requests from the Chinese government for Americans' data. It also points to "Project Texas," an initiative that TikTok began in 2022 to safeguard American users' data on servers in the U.S. and ease lawmakers' fears. 

The House overwhelmingly passed a measure on March 13 that gives ByteDance a choice: Sell TikTok within six months, or lose access to app stores and web-hosting services in the U.S. 

The six-month window for ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban would start once the bill becomes law. But if that happens, ByteDance and TikTok would almost certainly challenge the law in federal court, where judges could delay enforcement for months or even years as a legal battle plays out. 

In short, TikTok users in the U.S. won't be kicked off the app anytime soon. What happens next largely depends on the Senate, where the legislation's future is uncertain

When will the Senate vote on the TikTok bill? 

It's not clear yet. The Senate does not seem to be in a hurry to send the bill to President Biden, who recently said he would sign it

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has been noncommittal about bringing it up for a vote. That said, the House's bipartisan support for it and the White House's request to move "quickly" puts pressure on the Senate to act. 

A number of senators have noted the upper chamber moves slower than its counterpart, which passed the measure just eight days after it was introduced. 

Senators are set to leave Washington for a two-week break starting next week. Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said Wednesday he didn't expect any activity on the bill, "at least not in the next week to three weeks." He said the issue was urgent, but not an emergency. Last week, Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, predicted it could take months. 

For now, the bill sits with the Senate Commerce Committee, where other measures seeking to restrict TikTok have stalled in the last year. 

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, who has not backed the bill, said Wednesday after a classified briefing from national security officials that she's considering holding a hearing on the matter. She's also indicated that the current version of the bill may undergo changes or be scrapped. 

"The whole issue is constitutionality, making sure it upholds the court. We want our government to have a very strong tool to stop nefarious actions," the Washington Democrat said, adding that she did not have a timeline on next steps. 

Critics say the bill violates the First Amendment rights of the 170 million Americans on TikTok by taking away a platform they use to express themselves, get information and communicate. 

"The history of technology policy in the Congress is littered with flawed examples," Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said. "So it's important to get this right." 

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said he's urged Cantwell to schedule a markup expeditiously. 

"The precise language of this bill is still very much open to discussion," Cruz said Wednesday. "I think members on both sides may have amendments, may have suggestions for how to alter the language." 

An amended version would then have to back through the lower chamber if it passes the Senate. 

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was doubtful last week it would get a floor vote. 

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has been sounding the alarm on TikTok, said Wednesday he didn't have "the foggiest idea" about how soon the upper chamber could move on any bill relating to TikTok. 

"I don't have an idea at this point," Warner said. 

What happens if the TikTok bill passes the Senate? 

If the House bill passes the Senate, it would then go to the president and become law once he signs it. If that happens, it would be illegal to distribute apps developed by ByteDance, its subsidiaries and other firms "controlled by a foreign adversary," unless the company offloads the app within 180 days.

A sale of TikTok faces its own challenges. The app is sure to have a multibillion-dollar price tag, which few companies or investors could afford. A deal with any tech giant that has the financial resources is likely to hit antitrust roadblocks. And any sale would require China's sign-off. The Chinese government has said it opposes a forced sale. 

The six-month deadline to sell TikTok or be banned could also be extended amid a legal battle. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who was on Capitol Hill on March 14 meeting with lawmakers, has indicated the company will challenge it. 

"It is not feasible to do whatever the bill thinks it does, within the parameters set out in the bill," the chief executive said. "This will lead to the banning of the app in the country." 

Prior efforts to widely restrict TikTok in the U.S. have not been successful. The most recent case stemmed from Montana passing an outright ban last year. A federal judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect in January, saying it was unconstitutional.

Alan He and Cristina Corujo contributed reporting. 

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