US Lawmakers Push TikTok Ban Bill After CEO Testimony

Image credit: US Senate

US lawmakers signal increased support for bill that could ban TikTok, after five-hour testimony by chief executive Chew Shou Zi

US lawmakers from both major parties signalled renewed support over the weekend for a bill that would allow the White House to impose controls or bans on imported technologies such as TikTok.

The latest comments come after TikTok chief executive Chew Shou Zi spent five hours publicly answering questions from members of the House of Representatives last week.

House speaker Kevin McCarthy said the House would be “moving forward” with the bill.

“It’s very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can’t be honest and admit what we already know to be true – China has access to TikTok user data,” McCarthy said on Twitter on Sunday.

‘Technological tentacles’

“The House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The US government is concerned that data collected by TikTok – which is on a scale and level of detail similar to that of other smartphone apps – could be accessed by the Chinese government and used for purposes of espionage.

Devices issued by the US federal government were recently banned from having the app installed, with similar measures passed by a number of US states.

The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Act, also known as the Restrict Act, would go further in authorising the White House, through the Commerce Department, to review foreign technologies and then order a ban on those technologies or force their sale, depending on the review’s findings.

‘Very in favour’

“I think the White House is very in favour of this bill,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday morning.

He added, “We [would] give the Secretary of Commerce the tools to ban, to force a sale.”

But he did not specify whether the administration would specifically use the tools against TikTok.

As with any such bill, the proposal needs approval from both chambers of Congress as well as the president’s signature to become law.

‘Not an agent’

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” TikTok’s Chew told the House session last week.

But lawmakers said the testimony did nothing to allay US fears about the app’s data security, with Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin telling ABC News on Sunday that Chew’s appearance “actually increased the likelihood that Congress will take some action”.

“At the end of the day, TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, … and by Chinese law, that company has to be willing to turn over data,” Warner told CBS.