Potential TikTok ban putting thousands of jobs at risk, California senator warns


After US President Joe Biden signed legislation that will force the sale of TikTok or ban it from the country, California senator Laphonza Butler said thousands of people could lose their jobs.

It all moved rather fast. After the votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the forced divestiture of TikTok – a massively popular platform owned by the Chinese company ByteDance – was signed into law by Biden on Wednesday.

Obviously, legal challenges now await – that’s what TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew has promised in his video response to the news. He said that the company expects to block the new legislation in court.

Chew also mentioned the seven million business owners who supposedly rely on TikTok for their livelihoods, and that is something California senator Butler seems to agree with – even though she herself voted to support the legislative package.

In a statement, Butler urged the Biden administration to consider the consequences to American workers of a potential sale or divestiture of TikTok and said that “the plight of thousands of Americans and their families” should not be forgotten.

“Approximately 8,000 people work for TikTok in the United States, concentrated in California and New York. Their employment and the livelihoods of their families hang in the balance,” wrote Butler.

“I write today to call attention to their contributions and to urge you to consider the unintended consequences on workers and allay those concerns as you consider a qualified divestiture.”

In her letter, Butler emphasized the major role workers have played in the overall success of the platform, as well as the advancement in understanding of the national security and data privacy concerns raised by TikTok’s Chinese ownership.

Butler pressed President Biden to take a consultative approach in balancing the very serious national security concerns with the labor, economic, and other myriad issues at stake.

“I commend you for committing to be the most pro-labor President in American history,” Butler, a former labor leader appointed in October by governor Gavin Newsom to fill the seat of the late senator Dianne Feinstein, continued.

“As your administration considers a qualified divestiture of TikTok, I urge you to keep in mind the unintended, yet very real and life-changing, consequences on thousands of Americans and their families.”

TikTok definitely has quite a few options on how to tackle the looming threat of a ban and seems confident in staving it off.

History – and the law – seem to favor TikTok. Former US president Donald Trump tried to ban the app through an executive order in 2020 but failed after courts blocked the attempt.

And in November 2023, another judge blocked a Montana state ban on TikTok use after the firm again sued, calling the measure unconstitutional because it infringed on the rights of users and businesses.

Influential organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are supporting TikTok’s right to exist in the US as well.

ACLU’s lawyer Jenna Leventoff said in March: “Just because the bill sponsors claim that banning TikTok isn’t about suppressing speech, there’s no denying that it would do just that. We strongly urge legislators to vote no on this unconstitutional bill.”

Activists also claim that the TikTok bill would infringe on Americans’ First Amendment right to access information, ideas, and media from abroad.


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