Posts with «legislative branch» label

House votes in favor of bill that could ban TikTok, sending it onward to Senate

The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Saturday that could either see TikTok banned in the country or force its sale. A revised version of the bill, which previously passed the House in March but later stalled in Senate, was roped in with a foreign aid package this time around, likely meaning it will now be treated as a higher priority item. The bill originally gave TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, six months to sell the app or it would be banned from US app stores. Under the revised version, ByteDance would have up to a year to divest.

The bill passed with a vote of 360-58 in the House, according to AP. It’ll now move on to the Senate, which could vote on it as soon as days from now. President Joe Biden has previously said he would support the bill if Congress passes it.

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The bill that could ban TikTok is barreling ahead

The bill that could lead to a ban of TikTok in the United States appears to be much closer to becoming law. The legislation sailed through the House of Representatives last month, but faced an uncertain future in the Senate due to opposition from a few prominent lawmakers.

But momentum for the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” seems to once again be growing. The House is set to vote on a package of bills this weekend, which includes a slightly revised version of the TikTok bill. In the latest version of the bill, ByteDance would have up to 12 months to divest TikTok, instead of the six-month period stipulated in the original measure.

That change, as NBC News notes, was apparently key to winning over support from some skeptical members of the Senate, including Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. So with the House expected to pass the revised bill Saturday — it’s part of a package that also includes aid to Ukraine and Israel — its path forward is starting to look much more certain, with a Senate vote coming “as early as next week,” according to NBC. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill if it’s passed by Congress.

If passed into law, TikTok (and potentially other apps "controlled by a foreign adversary" and deemed to be a national security threat) would face a ban in US app stores if it declined to sell to a new owner. TikTok CEO Shou Chew has suggested the company would likely mount a legal challenge to the law.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually,” TikTok said in a statement.

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TikTok is now asking users to call their Senators to prevent a US ban

One day after a bill that could lead to a ban of TikTok in the United States passed the House of Representatives, the company is doubling down on its strategy of urging users to call lawmakers. The app began pushing new in-app messages to users asking them to "tell your Senator how important TikTok is to you” and to “ask them to vote not on the TikTok ban.”

The new alerts are the second such message TikTok has pushed to users about the bill. Prior to the House vote, the company prompted users to call their representatives in the House. The step may have backfired as lawmakers accused the company of trying to “interfere” with the legislative process as Congressional offices were reportedly overwhelmed with calls, many of which came from somewhat confused teenagers.

The latest notifications are even more direct. “The House of Representatives just voted to ban TikTok, which impacts 170 million Americans just like you,” it says. “Now, if the Senate votes, the future of creativity and communities you love on TikTok could be shut down.” Like the previous alerts, users can choose to “call now,” and the app will find phone numbers if a zip code is provided.

Screenshot via TikTok

TikTok didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But the message underscores just how big a threat the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” is to the company. If passed, TikTok would have about six months to sell itself or face a ban in the US. Though there have been several previous attempts to ban the app or force a sale, no measure has received as much bipartisan support so quickly. If passed by the Senate, President Joe Biden has said he would sign it into law.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew has also appealed directly to users, telling them to “protect your constitutional rights” and promising that the company would “do all we can including exercising our legal rights to protect this amazing platform.”

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TikTok's CEO urges users to 'protect your constitutional rights' as US ban looms

Hours after the House passed a bill that could ban TikTok in the United States, Shou Chew, the company’s CEO urged users to “protect your constitutional rights.” Chew also implied that TikTok would mount a legal challenge if the bill is passed into law.

“We will not stop fighting and advocating for you,” Chew said in a video posted to X. “We will continue to do all we can including exercising our legal rights to protect this amazing platform that we have built with you.” He also asked TikTok users in the US to share their stories with friends, families, and senators. “This legislation, if passed into law, will lead to a ban of TikTok in the United States,” Chew said. “Even the bill’s sponsors admit that’s their goal.”

Our CEO Shou Chew's response to the TikTok ban bill:

— TikTok Policy (@TikTokPolicy) March 13, 2024

The bill, known as the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” passed the House on Wednesday with bipartisan support just days after it was introduced. Should the bill pass into law, it would force TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, a Chinese corporation, to sell TikTok to a US company within six months, or be banned from US app stores and web hosting services. TikTok has challenged state-level bans in the past. Last year, TikTok sued Montana, which banned the app in the state. A federal judge temporarily blocked that ban in November before it went into effect.

Last week, TikTok sent push notifications to the app’s more than 170 million users in the US urging them to call their representatives about the potential ban. “Speak up now — before your government strips 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression,” the notification said. The wave of notifications reportedly led to House staffers being inundated with calls from high schoolers asking what a Congressman is. Lawmakers criticized the company they perceived as trying to “interfere” with the legislative process.

In his appeal, Chew said that banning TikTok would give “more power to a handful of other social media companies.” Former President Donald Trump, who once tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok in the US, recently expressed a similar sentiment, claiming that banning TikTok would strengthen Meta whose platform, Reels, competes with TikTok directly. Chew also added that taking TikTok away would also hurt hundreds of thousands of American jobs, creators, and small businesses.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

House passes bill that could ban TikTok

A bill that could force a sale or outright ban on TikTok passed the House just days after it was first introduced. The House of Representatives approved the measure Wednesday, in a vote of 352 - 65, in a rare showing of bipartisan support. It now goes to the Senate.

If passed into law, the legislation would give parent company ByteDance a six-month window to sell TikTok or face a ban from US app stores and web hosting services. While the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” is far from the first effort to force a ban or sale of TikTok, it’s been able to draw more support far more quickly than previous bills.

The measure cleared its first procedural vote in the House last week, just two days after it was introduced. The bill will now move onto the Senate, where its future is less certain. Senator Rand Paul has said he would block the bill, while other lawmakers have also been hesitant to publicly back the bill.

TikTok has called the bill unconstitutional, saying it would “strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression” and hurt creators and businesses that rely on the service. Last week, the company sent a wave of push notifications to users, urging them to ask their representatives to oppose the bill. Congressional staffers reported that offices were overwhelmed with calls, many of which came from confused teenagers. Lawmakers later accused the company of trying to “interfere” with the legislative process.

Free speech and digital rights groups also oppose the bill, with many noting that comprehensive privacy laws would be more effective at protecting Americans’ user data rather than a measure that primarily targets one app. Former President Donald Trump, who once also tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok, has also said he is against the bill, claiming it would strengthen Meta.

In a letter to lawmakers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Fight for the Future and the Center for Democracy and Technology argued that the bill would “set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms” and would likely “invite copycat measures by other countries … with significant consequences for free expression globally.”

If the bill were to muster enough votes to pass the Senate, President Joe Biden says he would sign the bill into law. His administration has previously pressured ByteDance to sell TikTok. Officials maintain the app poses a national security risk due to its ties to ByteDance, a Chinese company. TikTok has repeatedly refuted these claims.

If the law was passed, the company would likely mount a legal challenge like it did in Montana, which passed a statewide ban last year. A federal judge temporarily blocked the ban in November before it could go into effect.


This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TikTok is encouraging its users to call their representatives about attempts to ban the app

TikTok is stepping up its efforts to fight a new bill that could force a ban of the app in the United States. The app has been alerting its millions of US users about the measure, which would force ByteDance to sell TikTok in order for the app to remain available in US app stores.

“TikTok is at risk of being shut down in the US,” the push notification says. “Call your representative now.” An in-app message then instructs users to “speak up now — before your government strips 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.” It also provides users a shortcut to dial their representative’s office if they enter their zip code.

The push alerts are reportedly already having a dramatic effect. Politico reporter Olivia Beavers said that House staffers report their offices are being inundated with calls. One staffer said on X that “we're getting a lot of calls from high schoolers asking what a Congressman is.”

We're getting a lot of calls from high schoolers asking what a Congressman is.

Yes really.

— Taylor Hulsey (@TaylorMHulsey) March 7, 2024

Unfortunately for TikTok, their plan to stir up resistance to the bill may not be having the intended effect. The flood of calls may in fact be “backfiring,” according to Beavers, who says the response may be increasing support for the bill among members of Congress. In a post on X, Representative Mike Gallagher, who chairs the select committee that introduced the bill, said the push notifications were “interfering with the legislative process.” TikTok didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The alerts come amid growing support for the measure, which was introduced earlier this week by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Committee members are expected to vote Thursday on whether to advance the bill. President Joe Biden, whose administration has also sought to force a divestiture of TikTok, is reportedly supportive of the bill. As Punchbowl News notes, previous bills to ban TikTok have not had the backing of the White House.

If passed, the bill would give TikTok about six months to separate itself from ByteDance or else an app store ban would take effect. Digital rights groups oppose the measure. The ACLU has called it “unconstitutional,” while other groups say that comprehensive privacy legislation would be a more effective way to protect Americans’ data.

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Oregon’s new Right to Repair bill targets anti-repair practices

Oregon is set to become the latest state to pass a Right to Repair law. The Oregon House of Representatives passed the Right to Repair Act (SB 1596) on March 4, two weeks after it advanced from the Senate. It now heads to Governor Tina Kotek's desk, who has five days to sign it.

California, Minnesota and New York have similar legislation, but Nathan Proctor, the Public Interest Research Group's Right to Repair Campaign senior director, calls Oregon's legislation "the best bill yet." (It's worth noting that Colorado also has its own Right to Repair legislation that has a different remit around agricultural equipment rather than around consumer electronics.)

If made into law, Oregon's Right To Repair Act would be the first to ban "parts pairing," a practice that prevents individuals from swapping out a piece for another, theoretically equivalent one. For example, a person might replace their iPhone battery with an identical one from the same model, but they'll likely receive an error message that it either can't be verified or used. The system forces people to buy the part directly from the manufacturer and can only activate it with their consent — otherwise users will have to buy an entirely new device altogether. Instead, under the new bill, manufacturers would be required to:

  • Prevent or inhibit an independent repair provider or an owner from installing or enabling the function of an otherwise functional replacement part or a component of consumer electronic equipment, including a replacement part or a component that the original equipment manufacturer has not approved.

  • Reduce the functionality or performance of consumer electronic equipment.

  • Cause consumer electronic equipment to display misleading alerts or warnings, which the owner cannot immediately dismiss, about unidentified parts.

Along with restricting parts pairing, the act dictates that manufacturers must make compatible parts available to device owners through the company or an authorized service provider for the most favorable price and without any "substantial" conditions.

The parts pairing ban applies to any devices first built or sold in Oregon starting in 2025. However, the law backdates general coverage of electronics to 2015, except for cell phones. Oregon's mobile devices purchased starting July 2021 count — a stipulation in line with California's and Minnesota's Right to Repair bills.

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Senate tells social media CEOs they have 'blood on their hands' for failing to protect children

The CEOs of Meta, Snap, Discord, X and TikTok testified at a high-stakes Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on child exploitation online. During the hearing, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, Jason Citron, Linda Yaccarino and Shou Chew spent hours being grilled by lawmakers about their records on child safety. 

The hearing was the first time Spiegel, Citron and Yaccarino testified to Congress. Notably, all three were subpoenaed by the committee after refusing to appear voluntarily, according to lawmakers. Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Dick Durbin noted that Citron “only accepted services of his subpoena after US Marshals were sent to Discord’s headquarters at taxpayers’ expense.”

The hearing room was filled with parents of children who had been victims of online exploitation on social media. Many members of the audience silently held up photos of their children as the CEOs entered the room, and Durbin kicked off the hearing with a somber video featuring victims of child exploitation and their parents.

“Discord has been used to groom, abduct and abuse children,” Durbin said. “Meta’s Instagram helped connect and promote a network of pedophiles. Snapchat’s disappearing messages have been co-opted by criminals who financially extort young victims. TikTok has become a quote platform of choice for predators to access, engage and groom children for abuse. And the prevalence of CSAM on X has grown as the company has gutted its trust and safety workforce.”

During the hearing, many of the senators shared personal stories of parents whose children had died by suicide after being exploited online. "Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us — I know you don't mean it to be so — but you have blood on your hands," Senator Lindsey Graham said in his opening remarks. The audience applauded. 

While years of similar hearings have so far failed to produce any new laws, there is growing bipartisan support in Congress for new safety regulations. As Tech Policy Press points out, there are currently more than half a dozen bills dealing with children's online safety that have been proposed by senators. These include the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which would require platforms to create more parental control and safety features and submit to independent audits, and COPPA 2.0, a revised version of the 1998 Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act, which would bar companies from collecting or monetizing children’s data without consent.

Senators have also proposed a number of bills to address child exploitation, including the EARN IT Act, currently in its third iteration since 2020, and the STOP CSAM Act. None of these have advanced to the Senate floor for a vote. Many of these bills have faced intense lobbying from the tech industry, though some companies in attendance said they are open to some aspects of the legislation.

Zuckerberg suggest a different approach, saying he supported age verification and parental control requirements at the app store level, which would effectively shift the burden to Apple and Google. Meta has come under particular pressure in recent months following a lawsuit from 41 states for harming teens’ mental health. Court documents from the suit allege that Meta turned a blind eye to children under 13 using its service, did little to stop adults from sexually harassing teens on Facebook and that Zuckerberg personally intervened to stop an effort to ban plastic surgery filters on Instagram.


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Tech CEOs are set to testify in a Senate online child sexual exploitation hearing in December

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on online child sexual exploitation on December 6 and the CEOs of major tech companies are set to testify. The committee expects Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his counterpart at TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, to testify voluntarily. It also wants to hear from the CEOs of X (formerly Twitter), Discord and Snap, and it has issued subpoenas to them.

"Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered," committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and ranking member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a joint statement, as Reuters reports. "I’m hauling in Big Tech CEOs before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify on their failure to protect kids online," Durbin wrote on X.

JUST ANNOUNCED: Senate Judiciary Committee will press Big Tech CEOs on their failures to protect kids at hearing on Dec 6.

Subpoenas issued to CEOs of Discord, Snap, & X. Committee remains in discussion w/ Meta, TikTok—expects their CEOs will agree to testify voluntarily.

— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) November 20, 2023

According to the committee, X and Discord refused to accept service of the subpoenas on their CEO's behalf, "requiring the committee to enlist the assistance of the US Marshals Service" to serve them personally. "We have been working in good faith to participate in the Judiciary committee’s hearing on child protection online as safety is our top priority at X," Wifredo Fernandez, head of US and Canada government affairs at X, told Engadget in a statement. "Today we are communicating our updated availability to participate in a hearing on this important issue." Engadget has also contacted Discord for comment.

The issue of tech platforms allegedly facilitating harms against kids has become an increasingly pressing issue. Earlier this month, former Meta executive Arturo Béjar testified that Zuckerberg failed to respond to his email detailing concerns about harms facing children on the company's platforms. Senators then demanded documents from the company's CEO "related to senior executives’ knowledge of the mental and physical health harms associated with its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram."

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The Supreme Court will hear social media cases with immense free speech implications

On Friday, the US Supreme Court agreed to take on two landmark social media cases with enormous implications for online speech, as reported by The Washington Post. The conservative-dominated court will determine if laws passed by Texas and Florida are violating First Amendment rights by requiring social platforms to host content they would otherwise block.

Tech industry groups, including Meta, X (formerly Twitter) and Google, say the laws are unconstitutional and violate private companies’ First Amendment rights. “Telling private websites they must give equal treatment to extremist hate isn’t just unwise, it is unconstitutional, and we look forward to demonstrating that to the Court,” Matt Schruers of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), one of the trade associations challenging the legislation, told The Washington Post. The CCIA called the order “encouraging.”

The groups representing the tech companies contesting the laws say platforms would be at legal risk for removing violent or hateful content, propaganda from hostile governments and spam. However, leaving the content online could be bad for their bottom lines as they would risk advertiser and user boycotts.

Supporters of the Republican-sponsored state laws claim that social media companies are biased against conservatives and are illegally censoring their views. “These massive corporate entities cannot continue to go unchecked as they silence the voices of millions of Americans,” said TX Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who recently survived an impeachment trial accusing him of abuses of office, bribery and corruption. Appeals courts (all with Republican-appointed judges) have issued conflicting rulings on the laws.

The US Supreme Court voted five to four in 2022 to put the Texas law on hold while the legal sparring continued. Justices John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to prevent the law from taking effect. Meanwhile, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the temporary hold. Alito (joined by Thomas and Gorsuch) said he hadn’t decided on the law’s constitutionality but would have let it stand in the interim. The dissenting Kagan didn’t sign off on Alito’s statement or provide separate reasoning.

The Biden administration is against the laws. “The act of culling and curating the content that users see is inherently expressive, even if the speech that is collected is almost wholly provided by users,” Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar said to the justices. “And especially because the covered platforms’ only products are displays of expressive content, a government requirement that they display different content — for example, by including content they wish to exclude or organizing content in a different way — plainly implicates the First Amendment.”

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