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Biden says he will sign a bill to ban TikTok if Congress passes it

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Friday signed off on legislation that could lead to a ban on popular video-sharing app TikTok in the United States, a move that comes amid growing concerns in Washington about keeping American data out of China’s hands.

The legislation passed unanimously by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday calls for China’s ByteDance to divest its ownership of TikTok – or face an effective US ban. Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson also supports the bill and has indicated that it will soon come to a full vote in the House of Representatives.

“If they pass it, I will sign it,” Biden said when reporters asked him about the legislation.

The White House had provided technical support in drafting the bill, although White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this week that the TikTok legislation “still needs some work” to get to the point where Biden would endorse.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, came out in a Truth Social post on Thursday saying he opposed a ban because it would help compete with the social media platform Facebook. Trump’s opposition to the legislation comes after he issued — and then rescinded — an executive action late in his presidency that was intended to ban TikTok and another popular app, WeChat.

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Trump’s pushback puts him on the opposite side of the debate from powerful Republicans, including Johnson and House Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who has called the legislation a “critical national security bill.”

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that TikTok owner ByteDance could share user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government. TikTok said it has never done that and wouldn’t do it if asked. The US government has also provided no evidence that this is happening.

In a separate move, Biden recently signed an executive order allowing the Justice Department and other federal agencies to take steps to prevent the large-scale transfer of Americans’ personal data to what the White House calls “countries of concern,” including China. Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

Biden in 2022 banned the use of TikTok by the federal government’s nearly 4 million employees on devices owned by its agencies, with limited exceptions for law enforcement, national security and security investigations.

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While his administration has raised national security concerns about TikTok, Biden’s reelection campaign joined the platform last month.

If passed, the bill would effectively ban TikTok and other ByteDance apps from being available in the Apple or Google app stores or on web hosting services in the US.

The bill takes a two-pronged approach. First, it requires Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. to divest TikTok and other applications it controls within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, or those applications will be banned in the United States. Second, it creates a narrow process for the executive branch to ban access to an app owned by a foreign adversary if it poses a threat to national security.

The company has also pledged to shield U.S. user data from its parent company through a separate entity that is managed independently of ByteDance and monitored by third-party monitors.

A poll published last month by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Americans are deeply divided on the issue of banning the app. Thirty-one percent of American adults said they would support a nationwide ban on TikTok use, while 35% said they would oppose that type of action. Another 31% of adults say they are neither for nor against a ban on the social media platform.

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The AP-NORC survey shows that TikTok users — about 170 million in the U.S., most of whom are younger — are less likely to be concerned about the app sharing U.S. users’ data, reflecting a previously perceived generational divide . About a quarter of daily users say they are “extremely or very concerned” about the idea of ​​the Chinese government obtaining users’ personal information, compared to about half of U.S. adults overall.

AP writers Josh Boak, Kevin Freking and Haleluya Hadero contributed reporting.

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