WASHINGTON – The US Senate on April 23 passed legislation giving TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, about nine months to divest the US assets of the short-video app, or face a nationwide ban.

President Joe Biden said he will sign the Bill into law on April 24. Here is what will likely happen next for TikTok.

TikTok clock starts

Once Mr Biden signs the Bill, a 270-day clock starts during which ByteDance must sell TikTok.

If it looks like ByteDance is close to divestment near the end of the nine-month period, the US President can authorise an additional 90 days for any deal to be finalised.

If the Bill is signed into law this week, as expected, the 270-day period will end around the inauguration of the next US president on Jan 20, 2025, leaving the decision on an extra three months either to Mr Biden, a Democrat, who is seeking re-election, or Republican front runner Donald Trump.

TikTok sues

Once the Bill is signed into law, TikTok is expected to sue to stop it. TikTok’s lawyers are also expected to ask the court for a preliminary injunction.

TikTok would want an injunction barring enforcement of the law to allow its full case challenging the constitutionality of the law to move ahead. It is unlikely that the court proceeding would be complete by the year end.

TikTok took similar legal actions in 2023 to stop a ban on the app in the state of Montana, where a preliminary injunction was granted. If that scenario is any guide for TikTok’s efforts against the US, the company itself and TikTok users will file separate cases to thwart the Bill.

The Bill sets the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as the exclusive forum for any legal challenges.

How long will this all take?

If TikTok successfully obtains a preliminary injunction from the court, the forced sale process is halted, potentially giving TikTok more time to operate freely in the US.

In August 2020, Trump, who was president at the time, sought to ban both TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat but was blocked by the courts. In June 2021, Mr Biden withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat and TikTok.

Will TikTok change at all?

The TikTok app should not change for its 170 million US users between now and the end of the divestment period in the first four months of 2025.

What does the Chinese government say?

China has a list of technologies that need Chinese government approval before they are exported. Experts said TikTok’s recommendation algorithm would fall under the list. REUTERS