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House committee votes unanimously for bill requiring sale of TikTok

“Social media is a major driver of the rise in antisemitism, and that TikTok is the worst offender by far,” Jewish Federations of North America wrote.

TikTok. Credit: Pixabay.
TikTok. Credit: Pixabay.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted unanimously on Thursday for a bill forcing TikTok’s Chinese parent company to divest from the popular social media app or be banned from U.S. app stores.

TikTok unintentionally paved the way for the committee’s rare 50-0, bipartisan vote by directing users, including children, to call their members of Congress and lobby them to vote against the bill.

Screenshots from the app shared on social media showed that users were confronted with a message from TikTok claiming that Congress wanted to ban the app. It then prompted users to input their ZIP codes, after which a pop-up directed them to instantly dial their congressional representatives.

Members of Congress reported being inundated with thousands of phone calls, including from young children, with pleas to stop TikTok from being banned. Lawmakers reportedly said that the calls included death and suicide threats.

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) took to the phones personally to explain to distraught middle-schoolers that the bill would not ban TikTok. “It actually just would require TikTok to cut ties with the Chinese Communist Party, because the parent company is ByteDance and they’re directly tied to the bad people in China,” the mother of two said.

“I am a mama bear on a mission to protect our kids,” she wrote on social media.

‘Worst offender’

The Jewish Federations of North America applauded the vote, after sending a letter to members of the committee on Wednesday urging them to support the bill due to TikTok’s role in spreading Jew-hatred.

“Our community understands that social media is a major driver of the rise in antisemitism and that TikTok is the worst offender by far,” Federations wrote. “Researchers found that people who use TikTok for over 30 minutes a day are 17% more likely to hold antisemitic or anti-Israel views, compared with 6% for Instagram and 2% for X/Twitter.”

Federations added that the “biased information, flooding onto the phones of Americans, is a major driver of the rise in antisemitism we are experiencing, which is most notable among the demographics that heavily use TikTok.”

Privacy concerns

Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who sponsored the bill, stated that the pressure campaign to get TikTok users to call their members of Congress was proof of the threat that TikTok poses under Chinese ownership.

“We are seeing why the Chinese Communist Party is so desperate to hang onto TikTok, because of its ability to target Americans and promote CCP propaganda,” they stated. “Now, our fears are coming to fruition.”

“TikTok users seem to be targeted based on their location—highlighting the exact data privacy concerns that our bill seeks to address,” they added.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who sets the agenda of the House, said he would bring the bill to the House floor for a vote next week.

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