Senate Passes Foreign Aid Package, Includes TikTok Bill

The U.S. Senate passed a foreign aid package in a 79-18 vote.

The bill includes $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific, and a measure that bans TikTok unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sells the social media platform to an American company.

President Joe Biden will sign the bill, saying in a statement, “I will sign this bill into law and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk tomorrow so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week.”

Should the social media platform be banned, Apple and Google would remove it from their app stores. The site would also not be available on U.S. web browsers.

The United States previously attempted to implement measures against TikTok under the Trump administration in 2020.

The Biden administration later banned the social media app on federal employees’ devices.

Thirty-two of fifty states have also prohibited the app on state employees’ phones.

Support for the bill is rooted in TikTok’s national security concerns due to its Chinese ownership.

According to TechTarget, lawmakers are “concerned that ByteDance may leak U.S. user data to the Chinese government if the Chinese government forced them to.”

Others have raised concerns that the app is addictive, is a safety threat to children, and negatively affects users’ mental health.

A February annual threat assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the app is part of China’s influence operation.

“China is demonstrating a higher degree of sophistication in its influence activity, including experimenting with generative AI,” it read. “TikTok accounts run by a PRC propaganda arm reportedly targeted candidates from both political parties during the U.S. midterm election cycle in 2022.”

Several individuals who have suggested an interest in purchasing the app include former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; CEO of video platform Rumble, Christ Pavlovski; Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary; and former CEO of Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick.

A challenge to the bill is differentiating the app from other social media sites, such as Meta and Twitter, which also collect user data.