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US Senator says TikTok divestiture deadline could be extended to one year

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows U.S. flag and TikTok logo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said on Wednesday that lawmakers could extend to one year a proposed deadline to force TikTok's parent company, China's ByteDance, to divest the short video app used by 170 million Americans.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 352-65 on March 13 to give TikTok's ByteDance, about six months to divest the U.S. assets of the short-video app, or face a ban.

Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell said she likes the idea of extending the deadline to one year. "My guess is that would be a good component to guarantee success," she told reporters on Wednesday. "We're talking to our colleagues, people have questions."

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Congressional aides had told Reuters that the idea of a one-year deadline has been discussed. The longer deadline would put any potential TikTok ban well into 2025 and beyond the November presidential election.

On Monday, Cantwell told reporters she will meet with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner and "then we will have a game plan on how to proceed."

On Wednesday, Cantwell said it was still "possible" the Senate could take up the House bill but she reiterated that senators want to make the bill stronger and put it on a better legal footing. She noted that attempts by former President Donald Trump's administration and the state of Montana failed to ban TikTok.

This week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed forcing a divestiture calling TikTok "America’s greatest strategic rival is threatening our security right here on U.S. soil in tens of millions of American homes."

TikTok has become a major issue in Washington. Lawmakers have been flooded with calls from users who oppose the legislation.

"A ban on TikTok would violate the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans," TikTok said on Friday.

Many lawmakers and President Joe Biden's administration say TikTok poses national security risks because China could compel TikTok to share American user data, while TikTok insists it has never shared U.S. data and never would.

TikTok says it has spent more than $1.5 billion on the effort to protect U.S. data and house it in the U.S.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)