US lawmakers consider extending TikTok divestiture deadline

Senate Republican leader has labelled TikTok as ‘America’s greatest strategic rival’ and voiced concerns over national security threats.

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Lawmakers in the US Senate Commerce Committee are considering extending the deadline for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to divest the popular short video app used by millions of Americans. The US House of Representatives previously voted overwhelmingly to give ByteDance approximately six months to sell TikTok’s US assets or face a ban. Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell has expressed support for extending the deadline to one year, suggesting it could enhance the likelihood of a successful divestiture.

Discussions about the possibility of a one-year deadline extension come amid ongoing deliberations among congressional leaders. Cantwell indicated plans to strategise with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner. Despite the House’s decisive vote, Cantwell emphasised the Senate’s intent to refine the legislation for firmer legal grounding, considering previous unsuccessful attempts to ban TikTok under the Trump administration and at the state level.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has joined the call for divestiture, citing national security concerns and labelling TikTok as a significant strategic threat. However, TikTok has vigorously defended itself, asserting that a ban would infringe upon the First Amendment rights of its 170 million American users. While concerns persist regarding potential data sharing with China, TikTok maintains its commitment to safeguarding US data, having invested over $1.5 billion in data protection measures and storage infrastructure within the country.