Image source: NY Times
TikTok: The bipartisan spending agreement will prevent TikTok from being used on devices used by the government, which is a new step.
The measure was approved by both Houses of Congress on Friday.
The decision underlines the mounting concern around the popular video-sharing app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
The bipartisan spending plan has not yet received President Joe Biden’s approval.
It exhorts e-commerce companies to carry out more investigations to stop the online sale of fake goods.
Additionally, the measure raises the filing costs for businesses wishing to merge with federal antitrust agencies.
Congress, however, was unable to pass a number of stringent laws intended for the tech sector, such as:
- Antitrust legislation that requires Apple and Google app stores to give developers more payment options
- A measure mandating new guardrails to protect children online
Even though Congress made more headway toward a compromise measure on national privacy standards in 2022, consumer data protection is still overseen by a patchwork of state laws.
Reaction to the bill
A center-left tech sector group called the Chamber of Progress applauded the rejection of various antitrust laws that would have targeted its donors, including:
Following the distribution of the package, Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich issued the following statement:
“What you don’t see in this year’s omnibus are the more controversial measures that have raised red flags on issues like content moderation.”
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a well-known antitrust law, has been the subject of earlier concerns from the company.
Another industry group, NetChoice, applauded Congress for rejecting the inclusion of unchecked radical progressive proposals to change American antitrust law.
The legislation that lawmakers approved as part of the budget package will nevertheless have an influence on the sector in several different ways.
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TikTok’s removal from government-issued devices may impact competing platforms like Snap, Facebook, and Instagram that are vying for the attention of younger consumers.
The legislation also includes research, national security, and law enforcement exemptions.
TikTok’s ownership structure has raised concerns from lawmakers and FBI Director Christopher Wray that it may expose US user data to Chinese corporations that may be forced by law to turn over user information.
TikTok has frequently insisted that the data it collects from US users are not stored in China, but these claims have little effect.
Through the US Committee on Foreign Investment, the company has been attempting to reach an agreement with the government to ease concerns about national security.
Following the announcement, a representative for TikTok issued the following statement:
“We’re disappointed that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices – a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests – rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review.”
“The agreement under review by CFIUS will meaningfully address any security concerns that have been raised at both the federal and state level.”
“These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies – plans that we are well underway in implementing – to further secure our platform in the United States, and we will continue to brief lawmakers on them.”
A bill that helps raise money for the antitrust organizations that examine mergers was included in the end-of-year legislation even though other antitrust measures aimed at digital platforms were not included.
Due to the requirements of the law, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act increases the fee that businesses seeking large mergers must pay to file with the antitrust agencies.
The bill also lowers the price for smaller deals and permits the fees to be modified annually following the consumer price index.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division have intended beneficiaries of the measure.
Without proper budget increases, both have experienced a significant surge in merger filings over the past few years.
The bill containing the merger filing fee was applauded despite falling short of the expectations of antitrust advocates.
The American Economic Liberties Project’s executive director, Sarah Miller, claimed that the bill would enhance antitrust law for the first time since 1976.
“This is a major milestone for the anti-monopoly movement,” said Miller.
“Big Tech, Big Ag, and Big Pharma spent extraordinary sums in an unprecedented effort to keep Congress from delivering on antitrust reform and undermine the ability of state and federal enforcers to uphold the law – and they lost.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the bill’s sponsor, said revising merger fees after decades is necessary to give antitrust enforcers the tools they need to accomplish their jobs.
“This is clearly the beginning of this fight and not the end,” she said.
“I will continue to work across the aisle to protect consumers and strengthen competition.”
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Tech impact on children
The Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act is included in the bill.
It instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out or support studies on the effects of media and technology on young children, adolescents, and babies.
The law states that the following technologies may have an impact on cognitive, mental, and physical health:
- Social media
- Artificial intelligence
- Video games
- Virtual reality
Within two years of the law’s passage, the head of the National Institutes of Health must provide a report to Congress on its activities.
TikTok banned on government devices under spending bill passed by Congress