WASHINGTON – The clock may be ticking for TikTok in the United States.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the popular video-based social media platform because of its links to Beijing, the lawmakers announced Tuesday.
The bill, which has bipartisan support, takes aim at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, which is required under Chinese law to disclose its data to the Communist Party, according to a statement by Rubio’s office.
The Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP) Act would block and prohibit “all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China, Russia and several other foreign countries of concern,” including Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.
“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,” Rubio said. “We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China.”
Acknowledging Washington’s simmering tensions with Beijing, Gallagher called TikTok “digital fentanyl that’s addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data and censoring their news.”
“Allowing the app to continue to operate in the US would be like allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War,” Gallagher said. “No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen, which is why it’s time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it’s too late.”
The recently released US National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy both list China as America’s top threat as it rapidly grows its military and expands its influence across Asia and into Africa. The Pentagon’s recent China Military Power states that Beijing aims to become a global superpower and develop a “world-class military” by 2049.
Some Democrats also support the bill, including progressive Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill), who called the legislation “a strong step in protecting our nation from the nefarious digital surveillance and influence operations of totalitarian regimes.”
“At a time when the Chinese Communist Party and our other adversaries abroad are seeking any advantage they can find against the United States through espionage and mass surveillance, it is imperative that we do not allow hostile powers to potentially control social media networks that could be easily weaponized against us,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Former President Donald Trump in late 2020 issued an executive order banning new downloads of the TikTok app, describing it as a threat to national security. However, the ban never came to fruition after a series of legal challenges, and President Biden revoked the order when he took office last year.
In its place, Biden issued an executive order that charged the Department of Commerce with evaluating “foreign adversary connected software applications … and take action, as appropriate.”
But Rubio in the statement said Biden’s executive order did not go far enough to protect Americans’ data from falling into Chinese hands.
“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” he said. “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.”
The federal legislation comes a day after New York lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban state employees and contractors from downloading TikTok onto government-issued electronics. At least five states — Maryland, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas have enacted similar bans.