What just happened? The US has taken a step closer to banning TikTok after the White House backed legislation introduced by a dozen senators that would enable the Commerce Department to impose restrictions, including bans, on apps and technologies that pose a national security risk.
The bipartisan Senate bill endorsed by the White House empowers Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to review deals, software updates, or data transfers by information and communications technology in which a foreign adversary has an interest, writes CNBC. There are six foreign adversary nations named in the bill: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan urged Congress “to act quickly to send the bill to the President’s desk.”
The bill, called the RESTRICT act (Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology), could have a huge impact on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
Despite its massive popularity, TikTok has for years come under scrutiny for its data-collection practices and ByteDance’s alleged ties to the Chinese government. Trump tried to ban the app completely when he was in office, and the FCC commissioner has called on Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their stores. Senators previously called for a total ban, and the FBI director said the app is China’s best espionage tool.
It’s not just the US that has concerns over the app; the EU Commission recently banned TikTok from employee devices over cybersecurity fears. TikTok CEO to Shou Zi Chew will testify before Congress on March 23 over the security concerns.
Glad to join @MarkWarner, @SenJohnThune, and our colleagues in introducing the RESTRICT Act, providing @CommerceGov with the tools necessary to identify, prevent and mitigate technological threats, like TikTok, originating from foreign adversaries. pic.twitter.com/Y4d6D6yaan
— Sen. Dan Sullivan (@SenDanSullivan) March 7, 2023
TikTok, which rejects the spying accusations and says it has spent more than $1.5 billion on data security, responded to the bill with a statement that claimed any “US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide.”
“We hope that Congress will explore solutions to their national security concerns that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.”
NEW: The White House has endorsed this bill. We have a broad, bipartisan coalition to get it done.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) March 7, 2023
While TikTok could be the biggest casualty, Senators that introduced the bill said it was not singling out the app. “The RESTRICT Act is more than about TikTok. It will give us that comprehensive approach,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Should TikTok ever be banned in the US, it’s likely that many users will circumvent the ban by using VPNs, which, ironically, is how many Chinese citizens access western internet services that are prohibited in the country.
Via Reuters, CNBC