In what would be the most extensive American restriction on any social media app, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday along party lines to grant President Joe Biden the authority to outlaw TikTok, which is controlled by China.
By a vote of 24 to 16, lawmakers approved the legislation giving the government new authority to outlaw the ByteDance-owned app and other security-risky apps. Over 100 million Americans use TikTok.
“TikTok poses a risk to national security. Action is required now,” said Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican and the committee’s chairman and measure sponsor.
“Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP (Communist Party of China) a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into their phone.”
Democrats opposed the measure, claiming that it needed more time for deliberation and expert consultation and that it was rushed. The bill grants Biden the authority to prohibit any transactions with TikTok, which could prevent anyone in the United States from accessing or downloading the app on their phones.
“TikTok is a national security threat … It is time to act,” said Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican and the committee’s chairman and measure sponsor.
Additionally, the legislation would call for Biden to enact a ban on any organization that “may” transfer sensitive personal data to a body under Chinese control.
Due to concerns that user data might fall into the hands of the Chinese government and jeopardize Western security interests, TikTok has come under growing fire in recent weeks.
This week, the White House issued federal agencies 30 days to make sure that TikTok is not installed on any equipment or systems used by the government. TikTok has also been prohibited from being downloaded onto state-owned devices by more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, and European Union policy agencies.
The latest proposal still has a long way to go before it can become legislation, and its future is uncertain. Before the measure can be sent to Biden, the entire House and the Democratic-controlled US Senate must approve it.
A TikTok spokeswoman said after the vote that a ban would prevent the export of American culture and values to the billion users of the service globally.
The Biden administration remained silent on whether or not it supported moving forward with the bill, as well as whether it thought Biden currently possessed the legal power to outlaw TikTok.
The committee’s top Democrat, Representative Gregory Meeks, stated that he vehemently opposed the measure but recognised the issues with TikTok.
Meeks remarked that “the Republican instinct to ban things it fears, from books to speech, appears uninhibited,” and that the measure would compel the administration to penalize TikTok and other affiliates of TikTok’s parent business.
Because of concerns that user data might be given to China’s government, the powerful national security body known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) unanimously suggested in 2020 that ByteDance divest TikTok.