A proposed bill aimed at addressing national security concerns related to TikTok has gained momentum in the United States. Introduced by a cross-party group of 20 lawmakers forming the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, the measure has garnered support from another House of Representatives committee and the White House.

The legislation, which cites national security as a primary concern, has raised alarm bells for TikTok, with the social media giant vehemently opposing the bill. TikTok argues that the proposed law would not only hinder free speech but also have detrimental effects on small businesses relying on the popular app. In response, TikTok has urged its massive user base to actively voice their opposition by contacting members of Congress.

The mobilisation effort by TikTok has reportedly led to a surge in calls to congressional offices, with some phone lines being overwhelmed. Notably, there are reports of teenagers participating in the call-to-action initiated by TikTok.

The proposed bill, recently approved unanimously by the Energy and Commerce Committee, is expected to face a full House floor vote in the coming week. The legislation explicitly singles out ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, and mandates that ByteDance must sell TikTok or risk removal from mobile app stores in the United States.

Lawmakers supporting the bill argue that ByteDance has links with the Chinese Communist Party, an allegation vehemently denied by ByteDance and TikTok. The bill, crafted to “protect the national security of the United States from the threat posed by foreign adversary-controlled applications,” does not include provisions for legal action against individual users of the app.

Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher emphasises the need to prevent America’s foremost adversary from controlling a dominant media platform in the country. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, insists that TikTok poses critical threats to national security due to its alleged collaboration with China’s political leadership.

Proponents of the bill reject the characterisation of the move as an outright ban on TikTok, asserting that ByteDance has a six-month window to comply. However, TikTok disputes this claim, describing the legislation as an “outright ban” that would infringe on the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and negatively impact five million small businesses.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) echoes TikTok’s concerns, denouncing the move as an attempt to score “cheap political points during an election year.” The ACLU highlights the app’s role in providing information and communication for many Americans.

This proposed legislation marks the latest effort by American lawmakers to address perceived national security risks associated with TikTok. While the app is already banned on US government devices, the impending decision will determine its fate in the broader American market. Past attempts by former President Donald Trump to ban TikTok and the Chinese-owned WeChat faced legal obstacles and never came into force.