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Biden gives TikTok a year to find a buyer or be banned

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The clock has started to tick for TikTok. President Biden signed a law today that gives the video streaming app a year to find a buyer or be banned nationwide. As NPR's Bobby Allyn reports, TikTok says it's planning to take the Biden administration to court to stop it.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: President Biden signed a bill today providing foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel and made no mention of what the bill also does - shuts down TikTok in the U.S. unless it is sold in 12 months. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew took to TikTok, naturally, to basically say, everyone needs to calm down. There won't be any disruption to the app, and TikTok is about to sue to try to block the law.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

SHOU ZI CHEW: Rest assured, we aren't going anywhere. We are confident, and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts.

ALLYN: Legal scholars say TikTok has a strong free speech case.

KATE RUANE: The First Amendment doesn't have a TikTok-shaped carve out.

ALLYN: That's lawyer Kate Ruane. She leads the Center for Democracy and Technologies Free Expression Project.

RUANE: This is the first time that Congress and the president have moved to ban access to a particular speech platform within the United States. It's pretty momentous. It's pretty extraordinary.

ALLYN: TikTokers didn't waste any time reacting either. Lauren Ashley Beck in Los Angeles linked the move to the president's courting of TikTok creators. She predicted a backlash in November.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

LAUREN ASHLEY BECK: Joe Biden signing a bill to ban the TikTok app, and in the same breath, his team is asking to partner with TikTok creators in order to secure votes for the next election. You lost.

ALLYN: TikTok is used by half of America. It's firmly engrained in both American culture and the country's economy. Morgan Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, says she makes a living off TikTok, giving out workplace and resume advice on the app.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

MORGAN SANNER: So is the government going to pay me the income that I lose when they ban TikTok, or no? They're just going to ignore that part?

ALLYN: In New York City, TikToker Dutch de Carvalho says a ban is the latest thing the government can't get right.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

DUTCH DE CARVALHO: Can we at least watch videos on an app of people doing fun things and learn about the world around us? No.

ALLYN: Officials in Washington say because TikTok is owned by a Chinese-based company, it could be used to spy on Americans or as a tool for spreading propaganda. While national security officials haven't provided any direct evidence of that, the Biden administration says the Chinese government isn't to be trusted, and the potential for harm is enough to force TikTok to sell or be banned. The app's fate will soon be with federal courts. Bobby Allyn, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOLA YOUNG SONG, "CONCEITED" ) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.