TikTok Broke the Tech Law Logjam. Can That Success Be Repeated?

The swift passage this week of legislation to force the sale or ban of TikTok was the first time a federal tech law has been approved in years.

And after a logjam of dozens of bills to rein in the business practices and power of tech giants, it appeared some momentum was building for further regulation.

In February, the Senate revived and passed an online child safety bill. This month, lawmakers introduced a sweeping privacy bill with the most bipartisan support yet. Leading lawmakers promise broad legislation to protect users of artificial intelligence.

But experts on tech legislation say that the unique speed of the passage of the TikTok legislation — a rare unified effort that took seven weeks from start to finish — is highly unlikely to be repeated. Lawmakers continue to squabble over the details on legislative proposals, and congressional leaders haven’t pushed their momentum. Silicon Valley’s powerful lobbying armies have waged war simultaneously, stalling the efforts. And conditions for any momentum are likely to worsen before the November election, when legislators will try not to rock the boat.

The law on TikTok, driven by the Biden administration and intelligence concerns that the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, presents a national security threat, created a rare bipartisan moment of movement, the experts said. The House also combined the bill with a $95.3 billion must-pass aid package for Ukraine and Israel to prompt the Senate to pass it.

“TikTok was unique,” said Stewart Verdery, a former staffer for Senate Republican leadership and now chief executive of the lobbying group Monument Advocacy. “It was a perfect storm of being an insanely popular product in the U.S., that is bipartisanly disliked for its harms to kids, and with a unique national security problem.”

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