White House Backs Bill That Could Lead To Nationwide Ban Of TikTok

The White House. Image credit: US government

More bad news for ByteDance, as White House backs bill to give Biden administration new powers to ban China’s TikTok nationwide

ByteDance executives will be watching with concern the slowly unfolding drama about the future of its TikTok app in the United States.

On Tuesday a bipartisan group of a dozen US senators introduced a bill to give the Biden administration new powers to ban Chinese-owned TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.

TikTok is used by more than 100 million Americans, but is facing a serious attempt to ban the app in across the United States. In December bipartisan legislation was introduced to ban TikTok from operating in the United States.

US bill

It should be remembered that the US Senate in December then passed a bill barring federal employees from using the app on government devices, and a number of US state governments took similar measures.

More recently the European Commission and EU Council said in February they were banning TikTok from staff phones on security grounds.

Canada also recently joined the EU and the US and has banned TikTok from governmental devices.

The new US bill introduced this week gives the US commerce department the authority to impose restrictions up to and including banning TikTok and other technologies that pose national security risks, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who chairs the intelligence committee, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

He said it would also apply to foreign technologies from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba.

“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the US,” said senator Warner.

“Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”

“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,” said senator Warner

ByteDance battle

TikTok reportedly said in a statement that 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”.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is due to testify before the US Congress on 23 March, where he will be the sole witness at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew. Image credit: TikTok
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew. Image credit: TikTok

The latest bill would require the US commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, to identify and address foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services.

The bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of US senators, led by Warner and Republican Senator John Thune.

It also includes democrat senators Tammy Baldwin, Joe Manchin, Michael Bennett, Kirsten Gillibrand and Martin Heinrich. They joined republican senators Deb Fischer, Jerry Moran, Dan Sullivan, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.

And now the new bill has been backed by the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who reportedly praised the bipartisan bill saying it “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”.

“We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the president’s desk,” he said in a statement.

The House foreign affairs committee last week voted along party lines on a bill sponsored by Representative Michael McCaul to give President Biden the power to ban TikTok.

Democrats had opposed McCaul’s bill, saying it was rushed and required due diligence through debate and consultation with experts.