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What Happens Next With TikTok?

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What happens next with TikTok?

The video social media app isn’t disappearing from smartphones any time soon. The legislative process is still in its early stages after the House’s passage of a bill mandating a sale by the app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, or be banned. Next, the bill is heading to a skeptical Senate, after which President Biden would need to sign it into law. Even after that, it might not happen.

Here’s what to expect.

The bill needs to be approved by the Senate, which could also make changes to the text of the legislation.

Several senators have already raised concerns about the legislation as it is currently written. For example, because the bill’s text explicitly names TikTok and ByteDance, some are worried it could violate a part of the Constitution that bars Congress from targeting specific entities with legislation. (The bill’s supporters say this will not be an issue.)

Several prominent senators who could help decide whether the legislation moves forward have been noncommittal. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, hasn’t said if he will bring it up for a vote. His spokesman did not respond to a question about his plans.

Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said in a statement that she would be speaking with “Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

President Biden said last week he would sign the bill if Congress passed it. But even if he does, it would not result in an immediate ban.

ByteDance will have six months to find someone to buy the app. If ByteDance finds a buyer that satisfies the government within that time period, the ban will never take effect. If not, app stores and internet hosting companies will no longer be allowed to offer TikTok for download or send updates to the app.

A ban becomes more likely if TikTok can’t find a buyer who can afford a price tag likely to be in the tens of billions of dollars, according to analysts. That’s likely to be difficult.

A sale or divestiture could also hinge on whether ByteDance is willing to sell or spin off TikTok’s whole global footprint or only its American operations. The legislation forbids a connections between the two companies after a sale, raising complications if a U.S. TikTok needed access to the parent company’s algorithms or other global versions of the app.

A ban could also result from the Chinese government blocking TikTok’s sale. China has criticized the new legislation, and Beijing appeared to take steps in 2020 that would give it the ability to block the transfer of TikTok’s algorithm.

If the House bill becomes a law, TikTok or someone else will probably challenge its legality in court. A possible ban could be delayed while they fight that legal battle with the government. And a judge could ultimately scrap the legislation entirely.

The bill that passed in the House on Wednesday does not appear to include any way for the government to remove the TikTok app from your phone. The bill’s sponsors did not immediately respond to a question about what would happen to versions of the app that were already installed on smartphones.

But its block of app stores and hosting services from sending updates to the app or assisting in the maintenance of the app could degrade the service for existing users even if TikTok is already installed, and the app could quit working altogether.

TikTok is required under the law to let you download your videos and other content.

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