The US Congress is readying a votable bill to pave the way for a broader ban on TikTok to reduce Chinese control of US data.
The US House Foreign Affairs Committee looks to implement legislation that could facilitate a nationwide TikTok ban. More than 100 million Americans currently use the popular Chinese social media app, which has largely been shielded from US sanctions. However, the new bill to revise such legal protections could pave the way for a broader US ban on TikTok. In addition, this bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, also seeks to stem another worrisome trend. The US government has long expressed concern regarding transferring sensitive personal American data to Chinese-owned or controlled entities.
Suggesting that TikTok’s growing influence among young Americans raises concerns regarding national security, McCaul said:
“TikTok is a security threat. It allows the CCP to manipulate and monitor its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be used for their malign activities.”
Although the bill should quickly scale through the Republican-controlled House, how it fares with the Democrat-majority Senate remains unclear.
The Proposed Ban
Introduced last Friday, the bill would see votes from panel members on several protections that shield foreign entities from US sanctions. This bill has only one sponsor, newly seated Republican chairman McCaul, but should pass the committee today. A new bill with a lone sponsor does not typically move to committee votes just days after its introduction. However, each committee’s chairman usually decides on bills to advance, making McCaul’s sponsorship as sitting chairman effective.
Nonetheless, the new bill is on course to advance to the full House for a vote, essentially leapfrogging several similar proposals. Previously introduced legislation to ban TikTok in the US Congress has yet to clear the committee process. It is also worth noting that despite their differences, both Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly support measures to curtail China’s growing influence.
From a practical perspective, the proposed H.R. 1153 bill seeks to revise a set of rules called the Berman Amendments. First enacted toward the end of the Cold War, the Berman Amendments sought to protect “informational materials,” including books and magazines, from sanctions-related international trade bans. However, over time, the Berman amendment expanded into a general rule prohibiting the government from blocking any informational materials, including digital content.
TikTok Lobbyists Liken Ban to Censorship of First Amendment Rights
Proponents against the proposed TikTok ban argue that such censorship is akin to violating content protected by the First Amendment. As TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter stated in a recent email:
“It would be unfortunate if the House Foreign Affairs Committee were to censor millions of Americans.”
TikTok lobbyists also previously argued that prior bills proposing a ban served to punish the company for crimes beyond the legal system.
Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
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