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Ro Khanna says TikTok owner should be forced to sell app, but ban too ‘extreme’

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance should be forced to sell the app but argued that the potential for a ban under current legislation is too “extreme.”

Khanna voted against a bill Wednesday that would require ByteDance to divest from TikTok within 165 days or face a ban in U.S. app stores and web hosting services. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The California Democrat was one of just 65 lawmakers, including 50 Democrats and 15 Republicans, who voted against the legislation. He cited free speech concerns in opposing the bill.

“There are two key principles why the courts would strike this down if the Senate took this up,” Khanna told MSNBC on Wednesday. “It’s not the least restrictive measure of protecting people’s data and privacy.”

“You could pass an Internet Bill of Rights. You could do things like a financial penalty. A ban is extreme, and you have to have the least restrictive means,” he continued.

“Secondly, you need, under the Supreme Court, an alternative means of communication,” Khanna added. “It is very hard to reach TikTok’s almost billion users, particularly international users, for Americans, and I don’t think the court would think that there are alternative means of communication here.”

The TikTok legislation was first introduced by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the top lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, last week.

Khanna, who also serves on the committee, argued that there are other ways to protect Americans’ data privacy.

“I do have concerns, which is why I would have been fine with a forced sale,” he said. “But the ban, if the sale doesn’t happen, goes too far.”

“My concerns are protecting Americans’ data and privacy and making sure that doesn’t get into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Khanna added. “But we can do that by passing an Internet Bill of Rights.”

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