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US lawmakers push nationwide TikTok ban

GOP Senator Josh Hawley has dubbed the video-sharing app “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives”

Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced legislation seeking to ban TikTok on all devices in the United States – as well as prohibit transactions with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance – claiming it represents a major national security threat. 

Senator Josh Hawley and Representative Ken Buck unveiled the ‘No TikTok on United States Devices Act’ on Wednesday, hoping to build in prior legislation which barred the app from some government computers.

“TikTok poses a threat to all Americans who have the app on their devices. It opens the door for the Chinese Communist Party to access Americans’ personal information, keystrokes, and location through aggressive data harvesting,” Hawley said. “Banning it on government devices was a step in the right direction, but now is the time to ban it nationwide to protect the American people.”

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The bill would invoke the president’s authorities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a law which allows the White House to intervene in commerce during a national emergency. US entities that continue to do business with ByteDance would be subject to penalties under the proposed legislation.

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter was critical of the bill, saying it “takes a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues like data security, privacy, and online harms.”

“We hope that [Hawley] will focus his energies on efforts to address those issues holistically, rather than pretending that banning a single service would solve any of the problems he’s concerned about or make Americans any safer,” the spokesperson added.

While Hawley told reporters on Capitol Hill that his legislation “specifically goes after TikTok” and “bans it,” the language of the bill appears to contain no measure to prohibit the app from American devices. It is unclear how such a ban would be enforced.

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In addition to barring transactions with ByteDance and other entities linked with TikTok, the new bill also calls for a report from the US intelligence community on the alleged “national security threat posed by TikTok.” The report would focus on whether the Chinese government can use the app to access US data, especially for “intelligence or military purposes,” and outline any “ongoing efforts” by Beijing to monitor or manipulate American citizens online.

Hawley has led a group of lawmakers, most of them Republicans, who are highly critical of TikTok and its Chinese parent firm, with the senator recently calling the app “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives.” He spearheaded the effort to ban TikTok on some government devices late last year, which received bipartisan support, but has argued the measure did not go far enough. 

January 26, 2023 at 09:41AM

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