TikTok Under Fire: U.S. Senate Demands Sale to Avoid Ban

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Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. Senate passed a bill requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok within a year due to surveillance concerns, potentially leading to its removal from app stores.
  • In Europe, TikTok could face a ban on TikTok Lite's feature considered harmful to children, amid investigations into its task-and-reward system.
  • TikTok tests Notes, a new app in Australia and Canada, focusing on photo and text sharing to compete with Instagram.

On April 23, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that could ban TikTok unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells the app within nine months to a year.

Reuters reported that the move is fueled by concerns over potential Chinese surveillance and data access. It follows a House vote and is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Senator Marco Rubio said the legislation was crucial to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from controlling a widely used app. It emphasizes the need for ByteDance to divest its ownership.

The ongoing dispute over TikTok is part of a broader tech and internet conflict between the U.S. and China, highlighted last week by China’s demand that Apple remove certain apps over security concerns.

TikTok plans to contest the bill based on First Amendment rights. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the move as potentially setting a dangerous precedent for government control over social media.

Meanwhile, if ByteDance does not divest, the new law would prevent major app stores from offering TikTok and provide the White House with tools to address other foreign-owned apps considered security threats. The debate over this bill also touches on broader censorship issues and could influence the upcoming presidential campaign.

TikTok’s Legal Issues in Europe

TikTok may soon encounter further legal challenges in Europe. The European Union is considering banning a controversial feature in TikTok Lite that is said to be harmful to children.

According to The Guardian, the European Commission has initiated inquiries into the app’s task-and-reward mechanism. It likened its addictiveness for children to that of cigarettes as it expanded throughout Europe.

TikTok Lite incentivizes users to engage by watching and liking videos, following creators, and inviting friends, offering rewards like TikTok’s in-app currency, Amazon vouchers, and PayPal gift cards. Allegations have surfaced that the app was introduced in France and Spain earlier in April without adequate safeguards for children, despite ongoing child safety investigations under the Digital Service Act.

The European Commission had set a deadline earlier this month for TikTok to submit a risk assessment. Still, it was reported that the responses were inadequate.

TikTok Prepares to Launch Instagram Rival

Meanwhile, TikTok has begun openly testing its new app, Notes, in Australia and Canada, targeting Instagram’s user base. This app integrates with existing TikTok accounts and focuses on sharing photos and texts, featuring a “For You” recommendation feed alongside one for followed users.

This is the first time TikTok has offered a dedicated feed for photo and text posts, marking a significant shift from its traditional video-centric content.