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The TikTok divestment bill has support from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell

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There is so much TikTok news! Let's start with the biggest: Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Republican leader in the Senate, has pushed hard to give TikTok parent company ByteDance the choice between divesting the company or effectively selling it in the US to disallow

McConnell told senators that TikTok was a strategic threat because China viewed it “as a tool of surveillance and propaganda” and Beijing's “influence and control were firmly entrenched from the start.” The Senate minority leader rejected TikTok's insistence that the divestment measure would violate the First Amendment, claiming that it would “fall squarely within established constitutional precedent” while also beginning to “turn the tide of a tremendous threat to America's children and… “to reverse our nation’s future prospects.” the defining competition of the 21st century.”

The House bill on the issue passed four weeks ago with an impressive 352-65 vote, but its chances in the Senate are far less certain. Republicans in the House of Representatives generally chose to ignore former and possibly next President Donald Trump, whose position recently shifted to opposing a TikTok ban — a likely outcome given Beijing's opposition to any divestment rejects.

A key figure in the Senate is Commerce Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who hasn't made a decision yet but says she plans to work out a plan with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.). and Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.). It's probably worth noting that Cantwell is also busy preparing to introduce a sweeping federal privacy law that would curb some of TikTok's data practices – as well as those of its Big Tech peers – but that probably wouldn't address those (yet). unproven) national security concerns.

Meanwhile, all this uncertainty about TikTok's future in the U.S. is hurting the company's employees there. As reported today by the Financial TimesMany of ByteDance's U.S. workers have had to pay income tax on their restricted shares of the company, which have been transferred, but which they generally cannot sell because ByteDance has not had much liquidity due to the uncertainty and has only made small repurchases. At the same time, workers are working on it prevented from selling to external investors.

The company announced this FT that it complies with U.S. tax laws and has “provided an on-call service for employees to resolve their questions and concerns.” (See also: my colleague Alexandra Sternlicht's article from a month ago about how former employees accused TikTok of using its stock compensation to stop them from criticizing ByteDance by threatening to seize their restricted shares if they did to do this.)

There are also a few tidbits about TikTok's product strategy. The Information reports that TikTok is launching a new app in European countries, including Spain and France, that gives people points for watching videos and inviting friends to sign up – the points can then be redeemed as gift cards or Creator Tips. This new “TikTok Lite” app is apparently a response to the service’s slowing growth in Europe.

And as TechCrunch reports, TikTok has informed users that their photo posts will appear on an upcoming service called TikTok Notes, which looks like an Instagram competitor, unless they opt out. The publication previously reported on the impending launch of this new platform, which was revealed in TikTok's installation code, although at the time it looked like it would be called TikTok Photos, which honestly makes a lot more sense.

More news below.

David Meyer

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