TikTok event in Mexico City
People attend the TikTok Awards ceremony in Mexico City on January 31, 2023 AFP

The House of Representatives passed on Wednesday a bill that would lead to a country-wide ban of popular video app TikTok if ByteDance, its China-based owner, doesn't sell its operations in the country within six months of its enactment. The legislation would also create a process that lets the executive branch prohibit access to other apps are considered to pose a threat to national security.

Lawmakers from both parties supported the measure, with the final vote being 352-65. Many of them have voiced concern that ByteDance has had to comply with requests from the Chinese government, which could use national security laws to compel local companies to assist with intelligence gathering.

This possibility, they say, could lead the company to share data about the more than 150 million American users of the app. "Separate from your parent company ByteDance, which is beholden to the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party), and remain operational in the United States, or side with the CCP and face the consequences. The choice is TikTok's," said ep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington.

The bill will now go to the Senate, where it faces a more uncertain future. Lawmakers in the Upper House have anticipated they will conduct a thorough review, as they balance security concerns with the potential harm of limiting free speech online.

TikTok has repeatedly denied any ties with the Chinese government, with its CEO saying the company never shared U.S. data with Chinese authorities and won't do it if asked.

TikTok fans in DC
A small group of protesters opposed to a TikTok ban gathered at the US Capitol ahead of testimony by the company's CEO AFP

But as the process continues, millions of Latinos in the country stare down at the possibility of not being able to use the app, which they disproportionately log into compared to other demographics in the country.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that almost half of all Latino adults (49%) use TikTok, the highest proportion for any demographic. They were followed by Black adults (39%), while smaller percentages of Asian (29%) and White (28%) adults report using the social media app.

Moreover, teens aged between 13 and 17 saw the highest rates of respondents for all social media usage, but there were three platforms that stood out: the main one was TikTok, where almost one out of every three Hispanics (32 percent) said they use it "almost constantly," when the country-wide figure is 17 percent. 10 percent of White teens and 20 percent of Black teens gave the same answer.

And it's not only users. Many influencers and small businesses have also voiced their concern over the potential impact this could have on a key source of income for them. Lele Pons, Andrea Espada, Monet McMichael, Beta Mejia and Fefi Oliveira are some Latino influencers with millions of followers who could be affected by the ban.

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