Senator Calls For ‘Path Forward On TikTok’

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew. Image credit: TikTok

Senate resumes discussions on TikTok bill following two-week recess, as TikTok launches television ads in latest response

US Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said lawmakers returning to Washington after a two-week recess could make progress “on a path forward on TikTok legislation”.

Meanwhile TikTok last week launched TV adverts in some US states seeking to rally voters to oppose a bill that would force Beijing-based parent ByteDance to divest the app’s US operations within about six months, or face a ban on US app stores.

The US House of Representatives on 13 March voted 352-65 in favour of the bill, but progress has been slower and more considered in the Senate.

Schumer did not give a specific position on TikTok, but said that “in the weeks and months ahead, we have the opportunity to make progress on bipartisan bills” including the TikTok measure.

Image credit: Unsplash

Progress slows

Congressional aides reportedly said there is no immediate action planned on the bill as senators discuss next steps.

Last month Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said she was considering holding a public hearing on the bill as lawmakers seek a “tool that can be used to stop foreign actors from doing deleterious things that might harm US citizens”.

“A ban on TikTok would violate the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans,” the company said on Friday.

Many US lawmakers have said they are seeking a divestment and not a ban, but TikTok says this is mere window dressing.

The company’s response to the bill has been much more aggressive than it was in 2020, when the Trump administration sought to force ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations to a US-based consortium – although the consortium, called TikTok Global, with Oracle and Walmart as partners, would have remained under ByteDance’s control.

Aggressive response

TikTok ran television adverts in 2020 but did not directly rally its users through the app to contact their representatives, as it has this year.

This time around ByteDance has almost entirely delegated the response to TikTok and Singaporean chief executive Chew Shou Zi, and has itself only become minimally involved, according to a report by the South China Morning Post citing unnamed sources.

That contrasts to its approach in 2020, when the company was forced to take a far more active position following the resignation of TikTok’s former chief executive Kevin Mayer.

TikTok last week began running television ads in US states including Pennsylvania, Nevada and Ohio, promoting the hashtag #KeepTikTok, in which a diverse group of TikTok influencers and merchants discuss the importance of the app.