Federal Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Ban TikTok Amid Growing User-Data and Privacy Concerns

TikTok Ban FCC
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TikTok Ban FCC
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Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa

With multiple states having recently prohibited employees from using TikTok due to growing security concerns, federal lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation, the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, that would ban the ByteDance-owned service from operating in the United States altogether.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the bill, officially the “Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act,” today. Meanwhile, Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the House.

All three of the lawmakers behind the measure explained their support in firmly worded statements, and Senator Rubio emphasized the far-reaching social and electoral influence wielded by the highly controversial app, which the State of Indiana believes exposes children and teens to explicit content.

“This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day,” Senator Rubio said of TikTok, personal data from which has reportedly been accessed in China. “We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China. There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.”

Additionally, Representative Krishnamoorthi described the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act as “a strong step in protecting our nation from the nefarious digital surveillance and influence operations of totalitarian regimes.”

And Representative Gallagher, for his part, communicated that “TikTok is digital fentanyl that’s addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news,” besides making clear that the platform’s ByteDance parent “ultimately reports to the Chinese Communist Party – America’s foremost adversary.”

As mentioned, Alabama, South Dakota, Utah, Maryland, and Texas have barred their employees from utilizing state devices to access TikTok, which has reportedly been used to monitor the physical location of specific Americans. Internationally, TikTok and ByteDance have been the subject of investigations conducted by Ireland and the European Commission itself, while India banned the app years ago.

If signed into law, the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act would specifically see the president “block and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of” select social media companies when said property and property interests “are in the United States or come within the United States.”

Moreover, the legislation also authorizes the president to block the described transactions as necessary to prevent the “commercial operation of the social media company in the United States.”

Predictably, the social media companies (ByteDance and TikTok among them, the text expressly notes) impacted by the bill would include those that operate from, are organized under the laws of, are owned in whole or in part by, are “subject to substantial influence” from, and/or transfer user data to “a country of concern.”

(The latter carries the same meaning as “foreign adversary” in 2019’s Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act and includes China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela.)

Moving forward, it’ll be worth monitoring the progress of the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act – particularly because TikTok has faced bipartisan criticism for several years running.