A group of US senators has unveiled new bipartisan legislation that would give the government new powers when it comes to limiting or even banning foreign-based technologies. In particular, the bill could be used to ban TikTok in the US if the government believes it poses a threat to national security.
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) are leading the charge with support from 10 other senators. If passed, the bill would allow the Department of Commerce to “review, prevent, and restrict software, hardware, or services that come from foreign adversaries.”
The legal text names some of these hostile nations: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela. The maximum restriction would be a ban.
“Today, TikTok is the threat everyone is talking about, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malicious influence campaigns in the US. However, before TikTok, it was Huawei and ZTE that threatened us. telecommunications networks of the country. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices,” Senator Warner said in a statement.
In his view, the US therefore needs a new systemic approach to foreign threats “so that we don’t play Whac-A-Mole,” he said. While the new RESTRICT bill could potentially be used against many different foreign companies, nearly all of the senators working on this bill cite TikTok as the top threat of the day.
TikTok is owned by a Chinese private company called ByteDance. Its growing popularity in the US has also led to growing concerns about user data and foreign interference.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan supported the bill. “This legislation would provide the US government with new mechanisms to mitigate national security risks from high-risk technology companies operating in the United States,” he said.
“Critically, it would strengthen our ability to address discrete risks of individual transactions and systemic risks of certain types of transactions involving countries of concern in sensitive technology sectors,” he added.
This isn’t the first attempt to pass a bill that would ban TikTok in the US. Last week, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favor of the DATA Act. But Democrats oppose this other bill.
As for TikTok, representatives have said several times that US user data cannot be accessed by the Chinese government. “A US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the more than one billion people who use our service worldwide,” Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, told AapkaDost last week.
TikTok has already been banned on government-issued devices in the US, Canada and the European Commission has also directed staff to remove the social media app from their work phones.