A group of U.S. lawmakers has introduced a bill that, if passed, would force Chinese internet company ByteDance to sell TikTok, its most valuable property, or have it banned in the United States, writes The Register.

The document is called the “Protecting Americans from Programs Controlled by Foreign Adversaries Act”. Among other things, it prohibits access to app stores and web hosting services in the United States for applications controlled by organizations deemed to be controlled by “foreign adversaries.”

TikTok has a lot to lose if the bill becomes law. The app currently has 170 million US users.

The bill provides that violators – in this case, ByteDance – could be subject to fines of up to $5,000 per user.

While the lawmakers seem to be targeting TikTok specifically, the bill also provides for the possibility for the US president to designate other social media platforms controlled by “foreign adversaries” as posing a threat to national security. These apps could also face the same measures if they have more than a million active users per year.

The House Special Committee on the Communist Party of China explains that these efforts are not censorship, but rather an impetus to disinvest.

“This bill is not a ban, and it’s not really about TikTok. It’s a choice. We implore ByteDance to sell TikTok so that its American users can enjoy their dance videos, their bad lip-sync, everything else that goes with TikTok,” argued ranking member Raka Krishnamoorthi.

The committee’s concern is that the Chinese Communist Party is deeply interfering in the internal workings of ByteDance, as there is no such thing as a private company in China.

“Under ByteDance’s ownership structure, the Chinese government has the ability to manipulate TikTok’s algorithm, surveil its users, and conduct influence operations that quietly populate Americans’ ‘For You’ pages,” explained Mike Gallagher, chairman of the committee.

He compared that allowing an entity like TikTok to become the dominant media player in the United States would be like allowing the KGB to buy The New York Times and other leading American media outlets.

“For anyone confused about the long-term goal of this legislation, China is building a sophisticated language model to influence the US,” alleged committee member Kat Cammack.

TikTok has survived many attempts to suppress its influence and spread in the United States, from bans at universities to individual states and beyond.

Bans have also occurred abroad. Last year, BBC employees were told to uninstall it from their corporate devices, and the app was also banned from government devices in the UK. Even Taiwan has removed the app from government resources.

In this round, the bill was supported by the White House, an interesting move given that President Joe Biden is using it in his campaign.

China will obviously have an opinion on any future legislation. The South China Morning Post reported that Beijing would block the sale. TikTok on the platform X also commented on the legislative initiative:

“This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it. This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”