The House Foreign Affairs Committee has officially advanced a bill that would allow the president to prohibit the use of TikTok and other digital services “that threaten U.S. national security.”
This latest development in the crackdown on TikTok – which federal agencies have about 27 days to remove from government-owned devices – just recently came to light, including in an update from Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul.
The Texas representative has sponsored legislation, H.R. 1153, that he says would enable the president “to ban TikTok” as well as any other app that constitutes a threat to national security, as mentioned. (At the time of this writing, the newly introduced legislation’s text wasn’t yet available via the congressional database.)
In any event, the ByteDance-owned platform, which is limiting the daily screen time of under-18 users, has long faced criticism over its alleged personal-data shortcomings, especially because the Chinese government can freely access accounts’ private information. The associated scrutiny has ramped up dramatically as of late, with the FCC, Canadian government officials, and the European Union having taken steps to curb the security threats that TikTok allegedly poses.
Now, the aforesaid H.R. 1153 (“Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act,” or the DATA Act) has passed out of committee in a 24-16 vote, and Representative McCaul is calling on his fellow lawmakers to support the measure.
“While the nation looked at the sky in disbelief as a spy balloon from [the] Chinese Communist Party’s military traversed the continental U.S., gathering sensitive data and sending it back to the mothership in Beijing,” McCaul communicated in part, “many Americans do not realize one of the greatest surveillance efforts from the CCP has been silently gathering personal data in their pockets. … It is no secret that TikTok is beholden to the CCP.
“In fact, President Biden [and] his national security officials have been sounding the alarm over the last three months,” proceeded the representative, noting also that the FBI director, the deputy attorney general, and the director of national intelligence alike have spoken publicly of the idea that TikTok presents far-reaching dangers to users.
“The United States Congress, literally the people in this room, agreed that TikTok is so dangerous that we banned its use on federal government devices. And it’s not only Congress; more than 30 states have banned TikTok from state-issued devices, including my home state of Texas,” the lawmaker continued.
“So why is Congress and the majority of states blocking access to TikTok? We’ve all seen what the PRC does with this type of data against its own people: interrogations, imprisonment, and shipping minority groups to genocide camps. TikTok is a modern-day Trojan horse of the CCP used to surveil and exploit Americans’ personal information.
“This legislation is a first step in protecting Americans against subversive data collection. Currently, the courts have questioned the administration’s authority to sanction TikTok. My bill empowers the administration to ban TikTok or any other software application that threatens U.S. national security. And make no mistake, TikTok is a national security threat,” McCaul stated.
Of course, time will tell whether the legislation (one of several measures touted as a means of outlawing TikTok in the States) will become law. The White House earlier this week signaled that it has “concerns about the app,” and TikTok’s seldom-discussed CEO is scheduled to testify before Congress later in March.