Senators introduce bipartisan bill to give president power to ban TikTok, other tech

State attorneys general have launched a nationwide investigation into TikTok and its possible harmful effects on young users’ mental health, widening government scrutiny of the wildly popular video platform. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Senators introduced Tuesday a White House-backed bipartisan Senate bill that aims to give the federal government more power to regulate—or ultimately ban—technology linked to foreign adversaries such as TikTok.

Unlike bills introduced by Republicans so far this year, the bipartisan RESTRICT Act led by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) does not specifically target TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, but rather takes a broader whole of industry approach. 

The proposal would call for the Commerce Department to identify and then mitigate risks posed by technology linked to foreign adversaries, including China, North Korea, Iran, Russia, Cuba and Venezuela. 

Warner said that while “the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok,” other threats have emerged before from tech from foreign adversaries. 

“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous,” Warner said. 

Thune said the bill addresses concerns about TikTok while dealing with “attacks made in the past constitutionally about how you approach specific or individual companies.”

The bipartisan bill has better odds at getting passed then GOP-led bills targeting TikTok specifically that have come before it. In all the RESTRICT Act is cosponsored by 12 bipartisan senators, and has support from the White House. 

“This legislation would empower the United States government to prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services operating in the United States in a way that poses risks to Americans’ sensitive data and our national security,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. 

Warner said the bill would give the Commerce Department the tools to mitigate and divest up to and including banning applications. With a popular application, such as TikTok, it is going to be incumbent upon the government to “show its cards” in terms of how it is a threat, Warner said. 

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement, “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.”

TikTok has repeatedly pushed back on allegations that it poses national security risks. 

Oberwetter also said that the Biden administration doesn’t need additional authority from Congress to address national security concerns about the app because of the ongoing Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review President Biden ordered in June 2021. 

Warner said the proposal introduced Tuesday is ancillary to the CFIUS process. The CFIUS process requires a transaction to trigger its tools, he said. 

In addition to the bipartisan Senate support and White House support, Warner said he has had “positive” conversations with his Democratic colleagues in the House. 

Tags ByteDance China Mark Warner TikTok

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