Senate Intel Chair: New law on TikTok will hold up in court

For all the latest developments in Congress, follow WTOP Capitol Hill correspondent Mitchell Miller at Today on the Hill.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he believes the new law that requires Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a U.S. ban will ultimately be held up in court.

The foreign aid legislation that includes the provision covering the popular video app was signed into law Wednesday by President Joe Biden, following its approval by Congress.

The law requires ByteDance to find a new owner for TikTok within a year, or the app will be banned in the U.S.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew said Wednesday the company plans to fight the new law in court so it can keep operating in the U.S.

“We are confident and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts,” Chew said in a video posted on TikTok’s corporate account.

Warner has worked on legislation related to TikTok for several years and said he has talked to Justice Department lawyers about the legal challenges ahead.

“They will have a right to bring this to the courts,” Warner said Wednesday. “But I believe this legislation has been drafted appropriately.”

Warner said he has worked closely on the issue with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who is the chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Cantwell opposed earlier TikTok legislation passed by the House. But she got on board with the latest legislation after the TikTok sale requirement was extended from six months to within a year.

Warner and other lawmakers are concerned that the Chinese government has the ability to mine data from the estimated 170 million TikTok users in the U.S.

“The fact that the Chinese government is trying to say so much that this algorithm is so important … makes my case that this is a national security concern,” he said. “If this was not, if this was simply a corporate enterprise, then they should let this be sold and declare what a great victory and a great accomplishment of a Chinese tech company.”

TikTok is expected to challenge the law on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment and the right of Americans to freely express themselves online.

But Warner believes the law will ultimately “stand the test of judicial scrutiny.”

The new law requires TikTok to be sold within nine months. But the president could grant an extension of that by another 90 days.

Warner said he understands the popularity of the app and concerns, particularly among young users, that it could be banned.

“There’s a lot of creativity. I think it’s great that people can make a living as social influencers,” he said. “But at the end of the day, this entity should not be controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Warner also pointed out that U.S. social media companies are not allowed to operate in China.

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Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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