US banning TikTok? Your key questions answered


TikTok's chief executive said on Wednesday that the company expects to win a legal challenge to block legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden that he said would ban the popular short video app used by 170 million Americans.

"Rest assured - we aren't going anywhere," CEO Shou Zi Chew said in a video posted moments after Biden signed the bill that gives China-based ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok's U.S. assets or face a ban. "The facts and the Constitution are on our side and we expect to prevail again."

Biden's signing sets a Jan. 19 deadline for a sale - one day before his term expires - but he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress. Biden is seeking a second term against former President Donald Trump.

In 2020, Trump was blocked by the courts in his bid to ban TikTok, and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Tencent (0700. HK), opens a new tab, in the United States.
Chew added: "Make no mistake - this is a ban on TikTok." He emphasized that TikTok would continue to operate as the company challenges the restrictions.
Driven by widespread worries among U.S. lawmakers that China could access Americans' data or surveil them with the app, the bill was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate late on Tuesday. The U.S. House of Representatives approved it on Saturday.
The four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in a war over the internet and technology between Washington and Beijing. Last week, Apple (AAPL.O), opens new tab said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms' (META.O), opens new tab WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.
TikTok is set to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds and TikTok users are also expected to again take legal action. In November, a U.S. judge in Montana blocked a state ban on TikTok, citing free-speech grounds.
The American Civil Liberties Union said banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would "set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms."
However, the new legislation is likely to give the Biden administration a stronger legal footing to ban TikTok if ByteDance fails to divest the app, experts say.
If ByteDance failed to divest TikTok, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet's (GOOGL.O), open new tabs Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide Web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications or TikTok's website.
The bill would also give the White House new tools to ban or force the sale of other foreign-owned apps it deems to be security threats.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said he was concerned the bill "provides broad authority that could be abused by a future administration to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Monday that President Joe Biden was "pushing" for a ban on TikTok and would be the one responsible if a ban were imposed, urging voters to take notice.
Biden's re-election campaign plans to continue using TikTok, a campaign official said on Wednesday. Trump's campaign has not joined TikTok.
Biden signed legislation in late 2022 that barred U.S. government employees from using TikTok on government phones.
No, TikTok will not suddenly disappear from your phone. Nor will you go to jail if you continue using it after it is banned.

After years of attempts to ban the Chinese-owned app, including by former President Donald Trump, a measure to outlaw the popular video-sharing app has won congressional approval and is on its way to President Biden for his signature. The measure gives Beijing-based parent company ByteDance nine months to sell the company, with a possible additional three months if a sale is in progress. If it doesn’t, TikTok will be banned.

So what does this mean for you, a TikTok user, or perhaps the parent of a TikTok user? Here are some key questions and answers.


The original proposal gave ByteDance just six months to divest from its U.S. subsidiary, negotiations lengthened it to nine. Then, if the sale is already in progress, the company will get another three months to complete it.

So it would be at least a year before a ban goes into effect — but with likely court challenges, this could stretch even longer, perhaps years. TikTok has seen some success with court challenges in the past, but it has never sought to prevent federal legislation from going into effect.


TikTok, which is used by more than 170 million Americans, most likely won’t disappear from your phone even if an eventual ban does take effect. But it would disappear from Apple and Google’s app stores, which means users won’t be able to download it. This would also mean that TikTok wouldn’t be able to send updates, security patches, and bug fixes, and over time the app would likely become unusable — not to mention a security risk.


Teenagers are known for circumventing parental controls and bans when it comes to social media, so dodging the U.S. government’s ban is certainly not outside the realm of possibilities. For instance, users could try to mask their location using a VPN, or virtual private network, use alternative app stores, or even install a foreign SIM card into their phone.

But some tech-savvy is required, and it’s not clear what will and won’t work. More likely, users will migrate to another platform — such as Instagram, which has a TikTok-like feature called Reels, or YouTube, which has incorporated vertical short videos in its feed to try to compete with TikTok. Often, such videos are taken directly from TikTok itself. Popular creators are likely to be found on other platforms as well, so you’ll probably be able to see the same stuff.

“The TikTok bill relies heavily on the control that Apple and Google maintain over their smartphone platforms because the bill’s primary mechanism is to direct Apple and Google to stop allowing the TikTok app on their respective app stores,” said Dean Ball, a research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “Such a mechanism might be much less effective in the world envisioned by many advocates of antitrust and aggressive regulation against the large tech firms.”

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