The White House said it backed legislation introduced on Tuesday by a dozen senators to give the administration new powers to ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.
The endorsement boosts efforts by a number of lawmakers to ban the popular ByteDance-owned app, which is used by more than 100 million Americans.
The bill gives the commerce department the authority to impose restrictions up to and including banning TikTok and other technologies that pose national security risks, said Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who chairs the intelligence committee.
He said it would also apply to foreign technologies from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba.
TikTok 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”.
The bill would require the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, to identify and address foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services. Raimondo’s office declined to comment.
The group, led by Warner and Republican Senator John Thune, includes Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Joe Manchin, Michael Bennett, Kirsten Gillibrand and Martin Heinrich along with Republicans Deb Fischer, Jerry Moran, Dan Sullivan, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, Warner’s office said.
Warner said it was important the government do more to make clear what it believes are the national security risks to the US from the use of TikTok.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan 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.
TikTok has come under increasing fire over fears user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is due to appear before Congress on 23 March.
The House foreign affairs committee last week voted along party lines on a bill sponsored by Representative Michael McCaul to give Biden the power to ban TikTok after then president Donald Trump was stymied by courts in 2020 in his efforts to ban the app along with the Chinese messaging app WeChat.
Democrats opposed McCaul’s bill, saying it was rushed and required due diligence through debate and consultation with experts. Some major bills aimed at China like the Chips funding bill took 18 months to win approval. McCaul said he thinks the full US House of Representatives could vote on the bill this month.
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