The TikTok logo is displayed on signage outside TikTok social...

The TikTok logo is displayed on signage outside TikTok social media app company offices in Culver City, Calif. last March. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Patrick T. Fallon

WASHINGTON — In the days before Wednesday’s U.S. House vote on the future of popular video-app TikTok, lawmakers including Long Island’s four congressmen were inundated with calls from users voicing their support for the social media platform.

The calls did little to deter the House from passing a bill that would force TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, to sell the app to a U.S. company, or be barred from sale in U.S. app-stores. The bill passed in a bipartisan vote of 352-65.

Some lawmakers say there is evidence the Chinese government uses the app to collect data on American users. TikTok executives have denied the allegations, and urged fans of the site, which has some 150 million American users, to voice their concerns to Congress. A recent feature on the site prompted users to enter their ZIP codes to be connected with their local congressional offices, prompting a flurry of calls to Capitol Hill over the past week.

The fate of the bill remains unclear in the U.S. Senate, but here is what we know so far:

Does anything change for TikTok?

TikTok continues to operate as normal. Wednesday’s House vote was the first step in the attempt in Congress to force the sale of the company to a U.S.-owned corporation. The U.S. Senate still must pass a companion bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement after the House vote the Senate “would review the legislation when it comes over from the House.” 

Some Democratic and Republican senators have raised concerns that the House bill, by focusing solely on ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok, could prompt the company to try to circumvent the bill, perhaps by rebranding the app.

“My concern is that if you try to deal with this by name, you’re playing a game of whack-a-mole, because what’s TikTok today, next week it’s TokTik or TicTak or whatever,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Tuesday.

Others have expressed concern that any ban would violate free speech protections of the First Amendment.

“The whole point here is you have a dilemma,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told reporters on Tuesday. “You want free speech, but you also want the United States to have some ability to protect U.S. citizens or U.S. military from foreign actors who might be deleterious in what they would be using as a tool of communication.”

How would a ban work?

The legislation passed Wednesday would require ByteDance to sell TikTok within 180 days of the bill becoming law. If ByteDance does not sell the app, it would be barred from selling the app on any U.S. platform.

Some business experts say completion of any sale of the widely popular app within six-months would be challenging, as federal regulators likely would have to approve a sale to ensure it didn't violate U.S. antitrust laws aimed at ensuring competition in the marketplace.

LI House members explain their votes

Long Island’s four House members all voted for the bill, citing national security concerns.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R- Island Park) called his vote “a step towards protecting users of the app from being targeted” by the Chinese Communist Party.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R- Bayport) told Newsday: “To have such a globally popular social media platform like TikTok controlled by foreign adversaries poses an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security and allows our adversaries to surveil and influence the American public, both through the data we produce and the information we share and consume."

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D- Glen Cove) said his vote was a “bipartisan step to protect our national security and the future of our democracy from one of our biggest foreign adversaries.”

Rep. Nick LaLota (R- Amityville) was not immediately available for comment. Last March, he called for an immediate ban of TikTok after the congressional testimony of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. Chew came under fire from lawmakers at the time because he repeatedly denied the app had any ties to the Chinese government.

Where do presidential candidates stand?

President Joe Biden said Monday he would sign a bill forcing the sale of TikTok if both chambers of Congress were to pass it.

The Biden administration in 2022 banned federal employees from using the app on government-owned devices, with a few exceptions for law enforcement and national security agencies.

Former President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok via executive order in 2020, but a federal court ruling blocked him. Last week, he reversed his position, stating on his social media platform he opposed any attempts to block the app.

Trump appeared to soften his position in a CNBC interview on Monday, saying he would leave it up to Congress to make the “tough decision” on TikTok’s future.

How Long Island members voted

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park): Yes

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport): Yes

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville): Yes

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove): Yes


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