US lawmakers inch closer to nationwide TikTok ban

Legislation unveiled in Congress on Tuesday would allow the White House authority to ban TikTok and other foreign technology throughout the nation – all in the name of national security.

Senators Mark Warner, of the Democrats, and John Thune, of the Republicans, introduced the bipartisan bill on Capitol Hill with full backing from President Joe Biden, who is said to have given input on the would-be-law.

The RESTRICT Act - or Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act – would give the US Commerce Secretary new authority to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies perceived as a threat to national security.

The bipartisan bill "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," said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The would-be-law does not specifically mention the Chinese-owned social media app by name and will only cover foreign technology originating from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

Sponsored by a dozen senators, the White House urged Congress to pass the bill quickly.

Lawmakers have been concerned for years about the massive amounts of private data collected from the millions of US citizens – especially children – who use the TikTok app.

The fear is that its parent company ByteDance will eventually hand the collected private data over to the Chinese Communist regime if they haven’t been forced to already by current Chinese law.

On February 27, the White House issued an order giving all federal agencies and employees 30 days to wipe TikTok from government devices.

“This legislation would provide the US government with new mechanisms to mitigate the national security risks posed by high-risk technology businesses operating in the United States… and also prevent such risks from arising in the future,” Sullivan said.

TikTok claims a US ban on the app amounts to “a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion people who use our service worldwide.”

TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is due to appear before US Congress on March 23.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on a separate bill last week to give President Biden the power to ban TikTok, but many senators thought the bill was too rushed.