The US House Foreign Affairs Committee has voted to give President Joe Biden the power to ban the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok.

Lawmakers voted to grant the administration new powers to block the ByteDance-owned app – which is used by more than 100 million Americans – as well as other apps considered security risks.

Republicans, who voted for the ban, argued that the platform is a “national security threat”, while Democrats, who opposed the bill, said the decision was rushed.

Here’s what you need to know.

Is TikTok being banned in the US?

The vote gives the President the power to ban TikTok, though it is yet to be seen whether Joe Biden will use it.

The bill does not precisely specify how the ban would work, but gives Mr Biden authority to ban any transactions with TikTok, which in turn could prevent anyone in the US from accessing or downloading the app on their phones.

“TikTok is a national security threat… It is time to act,” said Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the committee who sponsored the bill.

“Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP (Communist Party of China) a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into their phone.”

Democrats opposed the bill, saying it was rushed and required due diligence through debate and consultation with experts.

The bill would also require Mr Biden to impose a ban on any entity that “may” transfer sensitive personal data to an entity subject to the influence of China

TikTok has come under increasing fire in recent weeks over fears that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.

The White House this week gave government agencies 30 days to ensure that TikTok is not on any federal devices and systems.

FILE PHOTO: TikTok app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
There have long been concerns around TikTok over its links to China because its parent company, ByteDance, was founded in the country (Photo: Reuters)

More than 30 US states, Canada and European Union policy institutions have also banned TikTok from being loaded onto state-owned devices.

The fate of the latest measure is still uncertain and faces significant hurdles before it can become law. The bill would need to be passed by the full House and US Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, before it can go to Biden.

“A US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion people who use our service worldwide,” a TikTok spokeswoman said after the vote.

The Biden administration did not say whether it was in favor of moving ahead with the bill or not, saying only that it has previously raised concerns about apps like TikTok.

“We’ll continue to look at other actions that we can take, and include – that includes how to work with Congress on this issue further,” said White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton.

What are the implications for the UK?

The UK Government does not appear to share the strict stance towards TikTok adopted by Republican lawmakers.

After the US and Brussels voted to ban government officials from using the app, Michelle Donelan, the minister at the helm of the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said the UK would not be following suit.

“As a Conservative, I strongly believe in personal choice,” she told Politico.

“We have no evidence to suggest that there is a necessity to ban people from using TikTok.

“That would be a very, very forthright move… that would require a significant evidence base to be able to do that.

“We constantly review these things. National security always must come first, and if there was evidence presented to me that was contrary to that view, I would address it. But certainly there hasn’t been.”

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