The Clock Ticks for TikTok

TikTok users are lobbying Washington lawmakers to try to derail a bill that could ban the short video app in the U.S.Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times

Another round in the TikTok fight

The warnings against TikTok aren’t letting up, with U.S. security officials saying China is using the platform to meddle in elections and lawmakers calling the video app a global threat.

The sharp rhetoric isn’t new, but it raises a question for policymakers and business: Is the new push to force ByteDance, the company’s Chinese owners, to divest a real step change or just political posturing?

The House is barreling toward a vote on Wednesday that would force ByteDance to sell. Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana and the majority leader, said yesterday that special measures would be used to speed the process.

A big worry is TikTok’s ability to push content. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence says that the Chinese government has used the platform to promote pro-Chinese narratives and to influence American elections. Beijing could try to use TikTok to “sideline critics of China and magnify U.S. divisions” in this year’s presidential race.

(Worth noting: China has also used X and Meta’s platforms to disseminate its messages.)

Critics say TikTok’s response is proof it’s spreading misinformation. The app has 170 million users in the U.S. and sent push alerts to users over 18, telling them to urge lawmakers to “stop a TikTok ban.” Congressional offices have been inundated with calls and messages.

But the House committee on the Chinese Communist Party that’s behind the legislation accused TikTok of deceiving Americans, saying the bill is not a ban but rather a proposal asking TikTok to sever ties with China and ByteDance.

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