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Senate passes bill forcing TikTok's parent company to sell or face ban, sends to Biden for signature

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Senate passes bill forcing TikTok's parent company to sell or face ban, sends to Biden for signature
News

News

Senate passes bill forcing TikTok's parent company to sell or face ban, sends to Biden for signature

2024-04-24 10:47 Last Updated At:10:50

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers that’s expected to face legal challenges and disrupt the lives of content creators who rely on the short-form video app for income.

The TikTok legislation was included as part of a larger $95 billion package that provides foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel and was passed 79-18. It now goes to President Joe Biden, who said in a statement immediately after passage that he will sign it Wednesday.

A decision made by House Republicans last week to attach the TikTok bill to the high-priority package helped expedite its passage in Congress and came after negotiations with the Senate, where an earlier version of the bill had stalled. That version had given TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, six months to divest its stakes in the platform. But it drew skepticism from some key lawmakers concerned it was too short of a window for a complex deal that could be worth tens of billions of dollars.

The revised legislation extends the deadline, giving ByteDance nine months to sell TikTok, and a possible three-month extension if a sale is in progress. The bill would also bar the company from controlling TikTok’s secret sauce: the algorithm that feeds users videos based on their interests and has made the platform a trendsetting phenomenon.

TikTok did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday night.

The passage of the legislation is a culmination of long-held bipartisan fears in Washington over Chinese threats and the ownership of TikTok, which is used by 170 million Americans. For years, lawmakers and administration officials have expressed concerns that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over U.S. user data, or influence Americans by suppressing or promoting certain content on TikTok.

“Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance, TikTok or any other individual company," Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell said. "Congress is acting to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, maligned operations, harming vulnerable Americans, our servicemen and women, and our U.S. government personnel.”

Opponents of the bill say the Chinese government could easily get information on Americans in other ways, including through commercial data brokers that traffic in personal information. The foreign aid package includes a provision that makes it illegal for data brokers to sell or rent “personally identifiable sensitive data” to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran or entities in those countries. But it has encountered some pushback, including from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the language is written too broadly and could sweep in journalists and others who publish personal information.

Many opponents of the TikTok measure argue the best way to protect U.S. consumers is through implementing a comprehensive federal data privacy law that targets all companies regardless of their origin. They also note the U.S. has not provided public evidence that shows TikTok sharing U.S. user information with Chinese authorities, or that Chinese officials have ever tinkered with its algorithm.

“Banning TikTok would be an extraordinary step that requires extraordinary justification,” said Becca Branum, a deputy director at the Washington-based Center for Democracy & Technology, which advocates for digital rights. “Extending the divestiture deadline neither justifies the urgency of the threat to the public nor addresses the legislation’s fundamental constitutional flaws.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat who voted for the legislation, said he has concerns about TikTok, but he's also worried the bill could have negative effects on free speech, doesn't do enough to protect consumer privacy and could potentially be abused by a future administration to violate First Amendment rights.

“I plan to watchdog how this legislation is implemented,” Wyden said in a statement.

China has previously said it would oppose a forced sale of TikTok, and has signaled its opposition this time around. TikTok, which has long denied it’s a security threat, is also preparing a lawsuit to block the legislation.

“At the stage that the bill is signed, we will move to the courts for a legal challenge,” Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, wrote in a memo sent to employees on Saturday and obtained by The Associated Press.

“This is the beginning, not the end of this long process," Beckerman wrote.

The company has seen some success with court challenges in the past, but it has never sought to prevent federal legislation from going into effect.

In November, a federal judge blocked a Montana law that would ban TikTok use across the state after the company and five content creators who use the platform sued. Three years before that, federal courts blocked an executive order issued by then-President Donald Trump to ban TikTok after the company sued on the grounds that the order violated free speech and due process rights.

The Trump administration then brokered a deal that had U.S. corporations Oracle and Walmart take a large stake in TikTok. But the sale never went through.

Trump, who is running for president again this year, now says he opposes the potential ban.

Since then, TikTok has been in negotiations about its future with the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a little-known government agency tasked with investigating corporate deals for national security concerns.

On Sunday, Erich Andersen, a top attorney for ByteDance who led talks with the U.S. government for years, told his team that he was stepping down from his role.

“As I started to reflect some months ago on the stresses of the last few years and the new generation of challenges that lie ahead, I decided that the time was right to pass the baton to a new leader,” Andersen wrote in an internal memo that was obtained by the AP. He said the decision to step down was entirely his and was decided months ago in a discussion with the company’s senior leaders.

Meanwhile, TikTok content creators who rely on the app have been trying to make their voices heard. Earlier Tuesday, some creators congregated in front the Capitol building to speak out against the bill and carry signs that read “I’m 1 of the 170 million Americans on TikTok," among other things.

Tiffany Cianci, a content creator who has more than 140,000 followers on the platform and had encouraged people to show up, said she spent Monday night picking up creators from airports in the D.C. area. Some came from as far as Nevada and California. Others drove overnight from South Carolina or took a bus from upstate New York.

Cianci says she believes TikTok is the safest platform for users right now because of Project Texas, TikTok's $1.5 billion mitigation plan to store U.S. user data on servers owned and maintained by the tech giant Oracle.

“If our data is not safe on TikTok," she said. “I would ask why the president is on TikTok.”

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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Matt O'Brien contributed to this report.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., center, speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., center, speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

A TikTok content creator, sits outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

A TikTok content creator, sits outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Jennifer Gay, a TikTok content creator, sits outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Jennifer Gay, a TikTok content creator, sits outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

A TikTok content creator, speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington, as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

A TikTok content creator, speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Washington, as Senators prepare to consider legislation that would force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, a contentious move by U.S. lawmakers. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Next Article

Rapsody's brave new album 'Please Don't Cry' displays strength through vulnerability

2024-05-25 00:48 Last Updated At:00:50

NEW YORK (AP) — If truth has the power to set one free, then Rapsody’s new album, “Please Don’t Cry,” has removed her from emotional imprisonment and gifted her immeasurable liberation.

“People put up a mirror for me. I sat in the mirror myself…it was the beginning of healing. Heart-broke: Why do you feel like you can’t fill the void of whatever that was? Internally, why do you feel underappreciated?” questioned the three-time Grammy nominee. "And really allow myself, again, to just sit in a fire and burn. To forgive myself for some things. To accept some things. To learn to love myself."

Rapsody's not only frequently lauded by critics as the best female lyricist, but also as one of the best in the genre. After 2019’s critically-acclaimed “Eve” album, discussions by hip-hop purists erupted on social media and in barbershops near and far debating her potentially rivaling Kendrick Lamar for the lyrical throne. But the recognition hasn’t translated into the commercial success of some female peers — veterans like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, or recent newcomers like Megan Thee Stallion, Latto or Ice Spice. But her plight isn’t unusual for rappers labeled as “continuous” or extremely lyrical, regardless of gender.

“I was looking at what everybody else was doing instead of worrying about myself,” she said, soft-spoken throughout the interview. “I’d see comments (saying), ‘She makes great music, but she’ll never make it because she’s not half-naked or she don’t have a No. 1 hit.’ And I had to realize that those are really false measurements.”

“Please Don’t Cry,” released in May, is by far the most personal of her four studio albums. Dwindling more than 350 potential songs down to the final 22 tracks, the bulk of the production comes from HIT-BOY, BLK ODYSSY and S1, and boasts star-powered features including Erykah Badu and Lil Wayne. The regal voice of Phylicia Rashad is also sprinkled throughout.

The North Carolina native began constructing the album several years ago after a painful breakup and toward the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic. Personal tales have always lived within her music, but the foundation of her catalogue is anchored by expert lyricism and musicality.

“I’ve always thought that I was authentic. But at the same time, I realized there was a level of fear there — a fear of allowing myself to be seen completely. But at that time, I don’t even think I completely even knew who I was,” said the 41-year-old Marlanna Evans who kept Lauryn Hill’s “MTV Unplugged No. 2.0” project in heavy rotation while creating, along with an evolving Pinterest board filled with pictures and words for inspiration.

“Please Don't Cry” has a weightier R&B influence than past projects. Standout tracks include the Badu-assisted “3:AM,” the lead single “Asteroids,” “Stand Tall,” “Faith” and “God’s Light.” While her razor-sharp bars still slice on songs like “Raw” with Lil Wayne and Niko Brim, the album makes its mark by entering a new territory of unapologetic vulnerability. Rapsody touches on insecurities, not having a stronger female fanbase, family members battling dementia and speculation surrounding her sexuality.

On the surprisingly transparent “That One Time,” the past Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole collaborator provides a rare glimpse into her love life and past transgressions.

“One time, I had an experience with a woman. But I also bring up that I was with somebody that wasn’t available,” said the Jehovah’s Witness-raised artist of her relationship with a married person, while suggesting her partner wasn't fully honest. “I make mistakes, too — things I say I would never do, and then I find myself in a situation that I’m not proud of. But in my life and the conversations I have, I know I’m not the only one.”

Bianca Edwards, vice president of marketing for Roc Nation, says the vulnerability displayed showcases Rapsody’s security in her music and herself.

“You have to be extremely confident to bare your soul and not care what people think,” said Edwards. “And on this project, I think that she bared a lot.”

Always advocating for female rappers, Rapsody has consistently rejected praise meant to criticize her peers. But while there are songs like “Look What You’ve Done” in which she rhymes, “Don’t lift me up throwin’ shade/At my sisters that made it out wit’ a-- and bass,” she also raps, “Everything look cookie cutter/We seen enough a—, that sh-- ain’t special no more” on “Diary of a Mad Bitch.”

“I see my name brought up a lot of times used to put other women down for how they choose to show up in this art and in their life, and I’m not here for that. I’m not trying to make myself the standard. I’m just trying to make myself another example of what women in hip-hop look like to bring harmony,” said Rapsody. “With ‘Diary,’ it was me making an observation of everybody looks the same…I know we’re not clones.”

But despite a profession where cosmetic enhancements are common among female rappers – along with sexually-charged lyrics that contribute to their pop stardom – the “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” artist says she's never considered altering her body.

“My question is why isn’t there space for me or others who are different from what we see on a mainstream level…why don’t we get those same opportunities?” asked the self-described tomboy who also suffers from Graves’ disease which can change physical appearance. “I never wanted to be anything other than who I was.”

Rapsody says while every artist dreams of creating a hit record, she’s not willing to compromise her musical integrity or chase songs that don’t feel natural to attract more fans.

“I think she already found her place,” said Edwards. “I work with a lot of artists, and I’ve met artists that are still trying to find themselves. That’s not Rap.”

A tour will launch in September with five European dates and a North American leg that will run through October.

“Please Don’t Cry” has fortified Rapsody's healing journey, and she’s better for it.

“Everybody asks me about this album, like ‘How you feeling?’ I say I feel really happy and I’m at peace. And this is the most free I’ve ever felt,” she said. “I’m not putting pressure on myself to be defined as success through other people’s measurements of what that looks like.”

Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at: @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

Rapsody poses for a portrait on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Gary Gerard Hamilton)

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