A new Senate bill that would give the federal government authority to ban TikTok received support from the White House.
- A new bipartisan bill introduced on Tuesday by a dozen senators would give the Secretary of Commerce power to regulate and potentially ban foreign technology, including TikTok.
- The Restricting the Emergence Of Security Threats That Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or RESTRICT Act, allows the government to regulate technology from countries considered adversarial to the U.S., including China, Iran, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela.
- On Tuesday, the White House endorsed the bill, saying it is “a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans.”
- The bill does not explicitly mention the Chinese-based social-media platform TikTok, but several senators who introduced the bill repeatedly mentioned the dangers that TikTok poses to national security.
- TikTok responded to the bill by saying, “a U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide.”
Why it’s news
TikTok parent company ByteDance is under increasing pressure from U.S. lawmakers as more revelations point to the social-media platform being a national security risk. Multiple states have banned the app on government devices, and the federal government has also banned the app on its employees’ work devices.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet wrote a letter to Google and Apple in early February, encouraging the companies to ban TikTok from their app stores. In his letter to the tech giants, Bennet called the social-media app “an unacceptable threat to the national security of the United States.”
While the app has been banned on many state and federal government devices, a national TikTok ban is unprecedented in the U.S., though other countries have banned social-media sites before.
Backing from the White House is key in moving a TikTok ban forward. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan had high praise for the bill, saying that it “would strengthen our ability to address discrete risks posed by individual transactions, and systemic risks posed by certain classes of transactions involving countries of concern in sensitive technology sectors.”
Who’s against it
Not every anti-TikTok lawmaker thinks positively of the new bill. Senator Marco Rubio says in a Fox News interview that the bill is a half-measure and only “takes steps” toward banning TikTok.
“We should pass a bill that bans TikTok,” Rubio says. “I have the only bipartisan, bicameral bill that actually does that.”
Rubio introduced a bill in December, the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, that would ban TikTok in the U.S.
TikTok spokesman Brooke Oberwetter told NBC News that President Joe Biden already has the authority to oversee TikTok through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
“We appreciate that some members of Congress remain willing to explore options for addressing national security concerns that don’t have the effect of censoring millions of Americans,” Oberwetter says.
The Biden administration has also been in talks with TikTok to negotiate a regulatory deal that appeals to both parties.
Backing up a bit
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump attempted to ban TikTok but was thwarted by the courts. To prevent this from reoccurring, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted last week to allow President Biden power to ban TikTok, Reuters reports.
This vote was partisan as Democrats argued that the bill, sponsored by Republican Representative Michael McCaul, was too hasty. Other bills regarding China have taken up to 18 months to win approval in Congress. McCaul’s bill could go to a full House session sometime this month, Reuters reports.