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Here's what to know about the potential TikTok ban

A congressional bill signed into law by President Biden starts the clock ticking on the U.S. possibly pulling the plug on TikTok.

Is TikTok about to go from a social media powerhouse to banned in the U.S.?

That reality is one big step closer now that a bill potentially banning the app with 170 million American users was signed into law on April 24 by President Biden.

The provision to ban TikTok was tucked into a $95 billion package highlighted by aid to Ukraine and Israel. The legislation was passed by the Senate on April 23 and signed by Biden a day later after having previously sailed through the House of Representatives.

Here's what to know about whether the ban will actually happen and the timeline of when it could go into effect.

Who owns TikTok?

The app is owned by ByteDance, a technology company headquartered in Beijing.

The company's Chinese ownership has been a crucial component for legislators arguing for the ban. Members of Congress from both parties and government officials have said it presents a national security risk that the data of tens of millions of Americans could be under surveillance by the Chinese government.

“TikTok represents a national security concern, and the reason I say that is TikTok's parent company is beholden to the Chinese government,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told NBC Nightly News on April 23.

Legislators have also argued the platform is used by the Chinese government to spread propaganda by downplaying negative posts about China and amplifying posts damaging to America.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told a House committee at a hearing in March that TikTok is safe and secure and is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government.

Members appeared unswayed by his testimony and were almost universally critical of TikTok.

Is TikTok getting banned?

A lot must happen before an actual ban would go into effect.

The bill states that ByteDance would have at least nine months to sell TikTok, and Biden has the authority to extend the period another three months. A sale to an owner outside of China would most likely ward off the ban.

However, a sale could be exceedingly difficult to pull off. ByteDance could simply decline to part with such a valuable platform, and it remains unclear if the Chinese government would even let that happen.

There also is the fact that few companies have the funding to purchase the social media juggernaut. ByteDance was valued at $220 billion at its last funding round in 2023, according to PitchBook data, leaving few companies in the world that could make that level of purchase.

There also is the question of how much TikTok is worth on its own, separate from the entire ByteDance company, and whether a purchase would include TikTok's powerful algorithm engine.

Rivals like Meta and Google would most likely be blocked from purchasing TikTok due to antitrust concerns. The U.S. government would also have to approve any potential buyer.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on CNBC in March that he is building an investor group that would use private equity to make a bid to potentially purchase TikTok.

Microsoft, Oracle and Walmart held talks with ByteDance in 2020 after former President Trump signed an executive order to ban TikTok in 45 days if it was not sold. The order was ultimately blocked in court, and the app continued to operate as normal.

When would a TikTok ban happen?

It would most likely be at least two years, between court challenges and the timeline put forth in the bill.

The earliest it could happen would be January 2025 if TikTok was not sold by the nine-month timeline in the bill, and April 2025 if Biden granted the extra three-month period.

However, ByteDance could also sue to block the law being implemented, which could potentially tie it up in court for at least another year, pushing a possible ban to 2026.

If it did ultimately happen, the U.S. would not be the first large country to ban TikTok.

The government of India banned it in 2020, citing similar national security concerns. India had about 200 million users at the time, according to The Associated Press.

Many of India's top users and influencers migrated to competing platforms like Instagram, the AP reported.