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Highlights: 'TikTok ban' bill draws pushback from users as House votes in favor of it

President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill, which could ban TikTok in the U.S. if its China-based owner, ByteDance, refuses to divest the social media app.

What to know about the House TikTok ban

  • The House passed a bill today that could ban TikTok in the U.S. The bill had widespread support from both sides of the aisle but was opposed by some prominent Democrats and Republicans who largely cited free speech concerns.
  • The bill's future in the Senate is less clear, as many lawmakers have said they are still evaluating it and may make changes. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill.
  • Former President Donald Trump had initially supported banning TikTok but reversed support in recent days.
  • The bill has faced strong pushback from influencers and other content creators who have said the ban would destroy their businesses. Some lawmakers have raised concerns that banning an app that is popular with young people in an election year could create political problems.

No. 2 House Democrat explains no vote

House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., on why she voted “no” on the TikTok bill: “I have serious concerns about data security, but I’m opposed to the Republican fast-tracking of this bill while they actively obstruct urgent national security emergency funding — refusing to oppose Putin’s tyranny and stand with our ally Ukraine.”

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., voted “yes.”

AOC sends fundraising note after House vote

Kyla Guilfoil

Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

Kyla Guilfoil and Frank Thorp V

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who voted against the TikTok bill, has circulated a fundraising note to constituents following the House vote.

"The House just passed a bill to force TikTok, the popular video-sharing app, to split from its China-based parent company or be effectively banned in the US," the release said.

The note cited a post on X from Ocasio-Cortez, one of the youngest members of the House, from before today's vote, in which she explained her no vote.

"This bill was incredibly rushed, from committee to vote in 4 days, with little explanation," Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the post on X.

Schiff votes yes, breaking with other NorCal members

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., voted in support of the TikTok bill, breaking with some of his colleagues who represent congressional districts in Northern California such as Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell, Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna.

Schiff advanced to the general election in California’s Senate race last week, beating his Democratic colleagues, Lee and Rep. Katie Porter, in the state’s top-two primary. Porter also voted against the bill.

The vote by Schiff, who is considered a front-runner in the California Senate race, aligns with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s support of the TikTok bill. Pelosi has endorsed Schiff’s Senate bid for the seat once held by the Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

These poll numbers help explain why the Biden campaign joined TikTok

Mark Murray

Biden’s re-election campaign has joined TikTok, even though sources had said the campaign wouldn’t formally use the social media platform.

Numbers from January's NBC News poll may help explain the reversal, because they show Biden struggling with young TikTok users, especially compared with young voters who don’t use the platform.

The findings are consistent with results from the November NBC News poll, as well as with other polls showing Biden’s struggles with younger voters.

The January poll also measured the share of voters who say they use TikTok once a day or more — 22% of voters, including 43% of voters aged 18-34.

Read the full story here.

Why did the House vote to ban TikTok?

The House voted 352-65 to pass a bill that could ban TikTok in the U.S. In the lead-up to the vote, lawmakers argued that the popular social media app, which is owned by the China-based company ByteDance, represents a national security threat.

House members raised concerns that the Chinese government could demand access to the data of TikTok users in America and spread harmful content. Meanwhile, some policymakers and outside experts have sounded the alarm about TikTok's effects on youth mental health.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it is an organ of the Chinese government, and the company has insisted that it has never shared American user data with Chinese officials.

Rep. Gallagher celebrates his bill passing

Gallagher shows off the cookie cake given to him and staff by GOP leadership for passing the bill. It’s a tradition that Scalise does.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., celebrates with a cookie cake after his bill to ban TikTok passed the House.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., celebrates with a cookie cake after his bill to ban TikTok passed the House.Kyle Stewart / NBC News

Gallego, active TikTok user, votes 'no'

Kyla Guilfoil

Julie Tsirkin and Kyla Guilfoil

Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat running for Arizona's Senate seat who actively posts on TikTok, voted against the bill.

"As the ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, I know all too well the threat China poses here at home — banning TikTok and limiting the freedoms of Arizonans before exploring other options is not the answer," Gallego said.

"It's vital we find a balance that both protects our national security interests and respects our fundamental rights. This is not that,” he added.

Jeffries: House passed TikTok bill in ‘decisive and bipartisan fashion’

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., reiterated his support of the TikTok bill as the legislation heads to the Senate.

“The House passed the bill in a decisive and bipartisan fashion and it’s now appropriate for the Senate to evaluate the merits of the legislation,” he said during a news briefing after the House passed the bill.

Jeffries stressed that the legislation itself did not outright ban TikTok but simply required the app’s divestiture from its China-based owner, ByteDance, so that it could be “owned by an American company that would protect the data and the privacy of the American consumer from malignant foreign interests like the Chinese Communist Party.”

Asked whether the Senate should delay the TikTok bill until the House passes the bipartisan national security bill that Republicans had killed, Jeffries deferred to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Who am I to tell the Senate what to do in terms of its own agenda?” he said. “You know, there’s a process: They pass bills, send it over to us for consideration. We pass bills and send it over to him. The ball is now in the court of the senators, and I trust Leader Chuck Schumer.” 

Pressed on whether he shares concerns that the process behind the TikTok bill was rushed, Jeffries said his earlier statement announcing his support for the bill indicated that there were “very principal objections and concerns raised by members with respect to timing and process and I have no disagreement with them.”

Jeffries also expressed confidence that TikTok will remain available to its users when asked whether he is concerned about a potential backlash from young voters in response to the House’s passage of the bill.

“I don’t support a TikTok ban and I have every confidence in the world that whatever the course that this legislation takes as it goes over to the Senate, that TikTok will remain available to those who continue to enjoy the platform at this very moment,” he said.

Gallagher credits Trump for victory, even though Trump opposes bill

Diana Paulsen

Diana Paulsen and Kyle Stewart

When asked by reporters about Trump's influence on today's vote, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who chairs the House Select Committee on China, said, "A lot of these processes started with the president, the former president, in 2020, trying to tackle the national security threat posed by ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok."

"Trump may, if he gets re-elected, have an opportunity to consummate the deal of the century," Gallagher added.

Trump had previously supported a TikTok ban but recently changed his mind and now opposes it.

Rep. Maxwell Frost, first Gen Z member of Congress, voted against ban

Diana Paulsen

Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., who at 27 years old is both the youngest and the first Gen Z member of Congress, voted against the ban. He cited First Amendment concerns and said the bill "won’t fix the serious issues we have with data privacy."

Biden ally Jim Clyburn explains his 'no' vote

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a prominent Biden ally, said he voted no on the TikTok bill because it’s unfair to “single out” one company.

“I got a bunch of Chinese companies in my district. They make refrigerators and all kinds of stuff,” he told NBC News.

Asked about the impact on young voters in the 2024 election, Clyburn said, “Well, that certainly is something that I think about, and I do believe that if we are going to do this, we need to do it for everybody in every way." That includes taking a look at Section 230 of the Communications Act, he said.

JoElla Carman

Scalise urges Senate to pass the bill

Kyla Guilfoil

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., called on the Senate to pass the TikTok bill, just minutes after the House had pushed it through.

"The House just passed a bipartisan bill to force TikTok to sever their ties with the Chinese Communist Party," Scalise wrote in a post on X.

"This is a critical national security issue. The Senate must take this up and pass it," the congressman added.

Pence calls TikTok 'digital fentanyl'

Former Vice President Mike Pence, applauding the House's passage of the TikTok bill, condemned the popular social media platform as "digital fentanyl for America's youth."

The app "can be used as a technological weapon by the Chinese Communist Party, its potency was already witnessed in TikTok’s campaign to prevent this legislation from passing," Pence said in a post on X.

Pence's position puts him at odds with his ex-boss, former President Donald Trump, who is opposed to Congress' efforts to ban TikTok.

Who is Jeff Yass? The billionaire donor with investments in TikTok’s parent company

Brian Schwartz, CNBC

Brian Schwartz, CNBC and Kalhan Rosenblatt

In the pitched battle between TikTok and Washington, few people stand to lose more than Jeff Yass, an American billionaire options trader who has emerged in recent years as a major donor to Republican candidates and causes. 

Yass co-founded the Philadelphia-based trading firm Susquehanna International Group, which owns a 15% stake in TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance. Yass’ personal share is 7%, worth roughly $21 billion.

Yass’ investment is under threat today, and the typically press-shy billionaire is taking fire from both the left and the right. Critics accuse Yass of bankrolling an army of lobbyists and orchestrating a bare-knuckle pressure campaign to protect TikTok — including by leveraging his nascent relationship with former President Donald Trump.

Through a spokesperson, Yass declined to comment on this story.

Read the full story here.

Free speech lawyer says TikTok ban is unconstitutional

Lawrence HurleySupreme Court reporter

Alex Abdo, a lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University: “That law would be unconstitutional. Americans have a right to access information and ideas from around the world including from speakers the government doesn’t like.”

He added that the government could pass laws to address privacy and data collection concerns, but this legislation does not attempt to do that. He noted the Supreme Court ruled in 1965 that Americans had a right to receive communist propaganda if they wished to and any attempt to ban TikTok would raise similar issues.

Rep. Jeff Jackson, most-followed member on TikTok, votes for ban

Diana Paulsen

Rep. Jeff Jackson, D-N.C., whose account on the platform has 2.5 million followers, voted for the ban.

Shortly after the vote, he posted a TikTok explaining his vote. The video opens with him saying "I don't think TikTok is going to be banned" and that he expects the company to be sold. He explains his vote as being a way to protect both TikTok and users of the platform from political interference by China.

He lightly criticized some of the other members who supported the bill, saying, "I know a lot of you have seen some members of Congress be deeply uninformed about this because they don't use TikTok and they don't care."

Jackson is not running for re-election this year due to redistricting rendering him less competitive in his district. He is instead running for North Carolina attorney general.

On X, people are posting their favorite TikTok videos

A particularly viral post on X posed a question: "What video is the reason they shouldn’t ban TikTok?"

Posted on Friday, it is now approaching 400 million views and has more than 13,000 quotes, most of those featuring funny and bizarre videos from TikTok. Check it out if you have an hour — or several — to kill.

Rep. Nancy Mace on 'no' vote: 'Nowhere in the Constitution' does it say you can ban apps

Diana Paulsen

In comments to reporters after voting against the bill, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said, “It is not the role of government to ban apps from the app store. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that.”

Mace said her opposition to the bill was not due to Trump coming out against it, saying, "No one swayed me one way or the other."

TikTok ban’s fate is uncertain in the Senate, where there is less urgency to act

The House-passed bill that could ban TikTok faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where there is less urgency to act and senators have different theories about how to address national security concerns about the app’s China-based owner.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the Senate is unlikely to accept the House bill as is and called for an open amendment process to make changes to it.

“I think it’s more than likely that we will take up their bill and amend it and say we’ve come up with some areas where we think it needs improvement,” Cornyn said. “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.”

Read the full story here.

Sens. Warner and Rubio cheer passage of House bill

The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee applauded the House's passage of the bill, saying they looked forward to getting the legislation through their chamber.

"We are united in our concern about the national security threat posed by TikTok — a platform with enormous power to influence and divide Americans whose parent company ByteDance remains legally required to do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a joint statement.

"We were encouraged by today’s strong bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, and look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law," the lawmakers added.

Warner is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Rubio is its vice chairman.

Some no voters say Congress should pass a real data privacy law instead

Alana Satlin

Kevin Collier and Alana Satlin

Several representatives voting no have noted that the U.S. has no modern, comprehensive data privacy law, which could render moot concerns that ByteDance’s Chinese ownership means Americans’ data goes to that country’s intelligence services.

Such a law has long been a top priority for privacy advocates who say that while TikTok does hoover up basic information about American users, it’s no different from most apps in that sense.

Asked if he was concerned about the app’s connection to China, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said, “I am concerned in terms of the data that American data should not be going to in those hands and that’s why we need an internet bill of privacy bill to protect Americans' data so that it does not go to the Communist Party in any way that would be the least restrictive way of doing it.”

Khanna, who represents parts of Silicon Valley, voted no on the bill and said he also worried it would hurt creators and could be a First Amendment violation.

No. 2 House Democrat votes against the bill

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., who serves as the House minority whip, voted against the bill. It's notable because Jeffries, the top Democrat, supported it.

Marjorie Taylor Greene comes out against the TikTok bill

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., voiced her opposition to the TikTok bill in remarks on the floor, noting that her Twitter account was suspended in 2022 for repeatedly violating the platform’s Covid misinformation policy.

“This came on the heels of our own United States government working with Big Tech and working with social media companies to censor and ban Americans' free speech,” Greene said, referring to the suspension of her Twitter account in 2022.

Greene then argued that she believes the TikTok bill can “cause future problems” and likened a ban to “opening Pandora’s box.”

“What’s to stop Congress or the United States government in the future from forcing the sale of another social media company, claiming that it's protecting Americans' data from foreign adversaries?” she said.

While speaking to reporters on the steps of the Capitol, Greene denied that Trump’s recent opposition to the TikTok bill played a role in her decision to vote against it.

“I haven’t spoken to Donald Trump about the bill; these were my own conclusions. And I made the vote based on my own conclusions,” she said. “And by reading the bill myself, you know, he has his opinion on the bill and he can voice it. So it doesn’t mean that we’re all robots. We make our own decisions, and mine was to vote no on this bill.”

TikTok ban bill passes in the House

Diana Paulsen

Kyle Stewart and Diana Paulsen

The House passed the bill in a 352-65 vote, with one member voting present. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Pelosi claims bill is 'an attempt to make TikTok better'

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking on the House floor, claimed that the bill is "not an attempt to ban TikTok."

"It's an attempt to make TikTok better. Tic-tac-toe — a winner, a winner," Pelosi said, tapping a lectern for emphasis and slicing the air with her hand.

The vote isn't over, but the bill is on track to pass

Top House Intelligence Dem votes against ban

Diana Paulsen

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, voted against the bill. In a statement he said that in his role, "I have more insight than most into the online threats posed by our adversaries," but unlike them, the United States does not "shut down newspapers, broadcast stations, and social media platforms."

Strange bedfellows voting similarly on the bill

Members in each party are divided over the bill. For example, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., have joined Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., in opposing the measure.

Massie warns bill will have 'bad consequences'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said during debate on the House floor that the legislation doesn't address the "root problems" concerning the potential invasion of Americans' privacy and said the proposal by lawmakers is not the right solution.

"In this case, their cure is worse than the diseases," he said.

Massie said Facebook will be the entity that benefits the most from this bill, opining that the company's stocks will increase. He said the legislation would be improved by a provision that sunsets the policy.

Massie also expressed concern that the ban will "be abused."

"This sounds like when American companies try to do business in Third World countries and a dictator says, well, you can do business here, you’ve just got to give me your company," he said.

Massie noted members of Congress are sitting in the House with Chinese-made phones, suits and cars they drove to work, suggesting it's hypocritical to vote in favor of the bill, and urged his colleagues to oppose the measure.

Here's where TikTok has been banned worldwide

Diana Paulsen

Nepal banned TikTok last year, calling it a threat to "social harmony."

India has banned TikTok, along with other Chinese apps, citing national security concerns.

Pakistan has banned and unbanned TikTok several times. It is currently legal.

Kyrgyzstan banned it last year, saying it harms child development.

Iran's and Russia's internet censorship laws render TikTok inaccessible to citizens.

Many other countries, including all member states of the European Union and the United States, ban TikTok on government devices.

New Jersey congresswoman offers a Cold War analogy

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today that the House bill that could ban TikTok is an effort to "protect our national security" and "a means of saying that a foreign adversary should not be able to control the media." (TikTok is owned by the China-based company ByteDance.)

Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, then offered a historical analogy: "It really would be as if, during the Cold War, we allowed Russia to have ownership of ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal."

The House has begun voting on the TikTok ban

Diana Paulsen

The House has begun voting on a bill that could ban TikTok in the U.S. unless the company ends its ties with China, which TikTok has said it will not do.

TikTok creators are urging users to help #KeepTikTok

Thousands of TikTok users, many of whom say they’ve built entire livelihoods and communities on the app, are responding to the company’s plea to #KeepTikTok by urging against its potential ban.

The platform of more than 1 billion monthly active users is facing a bill that would force ByteDance, its China-based parent company, to divest TikTok or risk its ban from U.S. app stores.

Read the full story here.

Biden campaign posts on TikTok roughly an hour before vote set to begin

Biden has said he would sign a bill banning TikTok if it gets through both chambers of Congress. But in the meantime, Biden's presidential campaign continues to upload video clips and memes to the social media platform.

The campaign posted on TikTok roughly an hour before the House vote was set to begin. The post features a series of screenshots related to special counsel Robert Hur's investigation of the president, set to the Taylor Swift song "All Too Well."

"So... Ban Tiktok, but use it in the mean time to campaign? 💀 Pick a side," one TikTok user wrote in a comment on the post.

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries says he will vote yes

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., officially came out in support of the bill on Wednesday ahead of the vote.

"The legislation before the Congress does not ban TikTok," he said. "It is designed to address legitimate national security and privacy concerns related to the Chinese Communist Party’s engagement with a frequently used social media platform."

He added, "The principled objections raised by several members of Congress to the bill are real and should not be dismissed. However, after careful consideration, I plan to vote yes on the legislation for the substantive reasons set forth above."

Trump’s newfound opposition to a TikTok ban isn’t swaying Republicans

Trump reversed course and now opposes a ban on social media giant TikTok. But his new stance — and a full-court press from TikTok and its millions of users — isn’t swaying his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill.

House GOP leaders are charging ahead with a vote Wednesday on legislation that would ban TikTok from U.S. app stores unless its parent company, China-based ByteDance, agrees to divest the popular video-based video app.

And even some of Trump’s conservative allies in Congress said they have no problem calling out their party’s presumptive nominee for president over his newfound position on TikTok.

“Well, he’s wrong. And by the way, he had his own executive orders and his own actions he was doing, and now … he’s suddenly flipped around on that,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus. “I mean, it’s not the first or last time that I’ll disagree with the former president. The TikTok issue is pretty straightforward.”

Read the full story here.

Trump says TikTok is a national security threat, but Facebook is ‘enemy of the people’

Former President Donald Trump said he believes that TikTok is a national security threat but that he couldn’t support Congress’ banning the popular app because doing so would boost support for Facebook, which is the “enemy of the people.”

Asked Monday morning whether he believes TikTok is a national security threat in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Trump said, “I do believe that.”

“I do believe it, and we have to very much admit we are protecting American people’s privacy and data rights,” he said.

Trump had initially supported efforts to ban the app in the U.S., but he recently reversed his support. Pressed about why he flipped, Trump said he could have banned TikTok during his presidency but left it up to Congress to do so.

“But as you know, I was at the point where I could have gotten it done if I wanted to. I should have said, you guys decide, you make that decision, because there are a lot of people who talk that love it,” he said. “There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it. There are a lot of users.”

Trump then argued that banning TikTok would lead to the growth of Facebook, which he slammed as an “enemy of the people.”

“There’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok. But the thing I don’t like is that without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people along with a lot of the media,” he said.

House to take up TikTok ban bill shortly

The House is poised to pass legislation Wednesday that could ban TikTok in the U.S. as Republicans and Democrats alike sound the alarm that the popular video-sharing app is a national security threat.

TikTok, owned by China-based parent company ByteDance, is mounting an aggressive lobbying campaign to kill the legislation, arguing that it would violate the First Amendment rights of its 170 million U.S. users and harm thousands of small businesses that rely on it.

Read the full story here.