(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers supporting a bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese parent to sell the video-sharing app labored Wednesday to show they aren’t out to destroy the popular platform. 

“We implore ByteDance to sell TikTok so that its American users can enjoy their dance videos, their bad lip-sync, everything else that goes along with TikTok,” Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Competition with China, told reporters. “We ask American users of TikTok to tell ByteDance to sell the platform. And this bill provides the way.” 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to act Thursday on the legislation, introduced by a bipartisan group of House members, that would give TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance Ltd. 165 days to sell it.

Past legislative efforts have failed in the face of free-speech concerns and a campaign by TikTok to highlight the popularity of its short videos. 

The Biden administration voiced general support for the legislation while underscoring its goal isn’t to ban apps like TikTok but to ensure they aren’t controlled by foreign adversaries. Aides indicated they appreciated the bipartisan effort in drafting the bill but want to see changes in it.

“The administration has worked with members of Congress from both parties to pursue a durable legislative solution that would address the threat posed by certain technology services operating in the United States that put at risk Americans’ personal information and broader national security,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.

National security officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, have highlighted concerns over TikTok. Previous legislative efforts to ban or otherwise change the ownership structure of TikTok have failed. But in a sign of the platform’s popularity, President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign has started to use TikTok to reach its more than 170 million US users.

TikTok said in a posting on X, formerly Twitter, that the new bill would be an “outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it.”

The measure would bar TikTok from app stores like the one operated by Apple Inc. and from Internet service providers unless China divests it. That “raises serious First Amendment concerns,” according to Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“Congress can protect data privacy and security without banning Americans from accessing one of the world’s most popular communications platforms,” Jaffer said in a statement. “Banning Americans from accessing foreign media should be a last resort. 

But Representative Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House committee on China, said “instead of being fed whatever the opaque Communist Party-controlled algorithm dictates,” the sale of TikTok would ensure that Americans “have real freedom of thought and expression.”

 

--With assistance from Justin Sink.

(Updates with White House comment starting in fifth paragraph)

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