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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

House passes bill to potentially ban TikTok

The bill would require TikTok to be sold by Chinese owner Bytedance or face ban in US
Members+of+the+House+of+Represenatives+of+the+US+Congress+voted+to+approve+H.R.+7251+Wednesday+352-65.+
Seyun Park
Members of the House of Represenatives of the US Congress voted to approve H.R. 7251 Wednesday 352-65.

The US House of Representatives passed H.R. 7251 – a bill that could potentially ban the social media app TikTok – on Wednesday, March 12, by a wide margin of 352-65. The bill now heads to the Senate, where leaders on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the bill, and could eventually land on the President’s desk, where President Joe Biden has indicated he will sign the bill. 

Specifically, H.R. 7251 mandates that TikTok be sold by its Chinese owner ByteDance within 180 days of the bill’s passage. If TikTok is not divested from ByteDance, the app will be banned within the US. It is unclear who a possible non-Chinese buyer for the app could be and whether TikTok would cooperate with the forced divesture. 

For WJ students and teens across the country, the bill will likely have an outsized impact. A majority of TikTok’s 148 million active monthly users in the US are part of Gen Z, and teens spend a sizable amount of their day on TikTok. According to a 2023 Gallup poll, the average US teen spends 1.5 hours per day on TikTok (1.1 hours for boys and 1.9 hours for girls).

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Power politics: Politicians on both sides of aisle support, oppose bill for different reasons

Despite past attempts to ban or restrict TikTok, including executive action by former President Donald Trump in 2020, attempts have mostly sputtered out, for legal reasons or lack of political support. However, H.R. 7251 is different, having rapidly gained support. 

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce unanimously passed the bill 50-0 on Thursday, March 7, including support from the 23 democrats on the committee and Maryland democrat John Sarbanes. 

The politics of the bill are complicated and do not really follow traditional left vs. right or Democrat vs. Republican fault lines. Neither House Democratic nor House Republican leadership issued an official position on the bill (known as whipping votes), allowing its members to vote as they pleased. 

The bill had both notable advocates and critics. In favor of the bill, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) all supported the bill. Democrats like Speaker of the House Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and former speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also supported the bill.

Most advocates of the bill cite national security concerns as their biggest reason for supporting the bill. Concerns center around ByteDance, a Chinese company that politicians claim could give American user data to the Chinese government. 

On the other hand, former President Donald Trump opposes the bill, claiming that banning TikTok will lead to “Zuckerschmuck” doubling their business (a reference to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg). Trump has frequently criticized Zuckerberg and his businesses after he was banned from Meta platforms (Facebook, Instagram) in 2020 (Trump was reinstated to Meta in early 2023). 

A common theme seemed to be age, as younger members like Matt Gaetz (R-GA), aged 41, and Maxwell Frost (D-FL), aged 27, generally opposed the bill while older members supported the bill. 

In total, 15 Republicans and 50 Democrats voted against the bill. 43 of the total 65 opposed votes were from representatives aged 60 or below, which by House terms, is relatively young. 

WJ’s representative in the House, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), voted in favor of the bill. 

In the near future, the bill will head to the US Senate, where the bill has already picked up key endorsements from the top two senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) and Vice-Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL). 

When asked for comment, neither of Maryland’s two senators – Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen – had official positions on the bill as of Wednesday afternoon.

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Seyun Park, Print Editor-in-Chief
Junior Seyun Park is in his third year of the Pitch, happy to join this year as a Print Editor-in-Chief. Outside of Pitch, Seyun plays tennis and cello, and likes to follow hockey.
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