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A bipartisan panel of lawmakers unanimously approved a controversial bill on Thursday that could lead to TikTok being blocked in the U.S. if it doesn’t break with Chinese parent ByteDance.

If the bill becomes law, TikTok would have a little less than six months to divest from ByteDance, or be banned from apps and webhosting sites in the U.S.

Lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which greenlit the bill Thursday afternoon after months of negotiations, said the intent was not to get rid of TikTok, but to prevent a Chinese company from having access to large troves of American data.  The committee voted 50-0 to advance the bill to the full House or Representatives.

“It is very important that it is targeted and specific to the national security threat,” Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said ahead of the vote. “This is not related to content. This is about the threat because of the data that has been collected.”

The bill has moved quickly and garnered key support. House Speaker Mike Johnson endorsed the bill Thursday as “an important bipartisan measure to take on China, our largest geopolitical foe, which is actively undermining our economy and security.”

President Joe Biden is also urging the bill’s passage. The White House worked with lawmakers from both parties on the bill and a National Security Council spokesperson said the measure was “an important and welcome step.”

Past measures to limit TikTok met resistance on freedom of speech grounds. A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement that the current bill “will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”

Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Computer & Communications Industry Association, and the Center for Democracy & Technology have all opposed the bill due to similar concerns about free speech.

TikTok is trying to get users on board. On the app, they were greeted with a screenshot warning them that Congress was “planning a total ban of TikTok.” Several individuals said the app ask for their zip code, provided their Congress member’s name and suggested they reach out. Multiple staffers and lawmakers told CNBC their offices were flooded with calls, mostly from kids.

Lawmakers said TikTok’s action was another example of how easy it is for the app to locate Americans and send out misinformation.

“Today, it’s about our bill and it’s about intimidating members considering that bill,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wi., chair of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. “But tomorrow, it could be misinformation or lies about an election, about a war, about any number of things.”

 WATCH: Biden campaign joins TikTok despite ban of app on government phones

Biden campaign joins TikTok
Biden campaign joins TikTok

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