The House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted in favor of a bill that gives President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok.
The Chinese video-sharing social media platform is highly popular among young Americans and is at the center of data collection and national security concerns. More than 100 million Americans used the app, which is subject to the Chinese government’s oversight and data disclosure requirement.
The committee voted 24-16 along party lines for Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act, which permits the presidents to ban the app in America. Under current U.S. law, the app is shielded from American sanctions.
Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, the committee’s chair, sponsored the bill – HR 1153. If made law, the regulation would prohibit Americans from “engaging in any transaction with a person that the Secretary of the Treasury determines knowingly provides or may transfer sensitive personal data or persons subject to the United States jurisdiction to any foreign person.”
“My bill empowers the administration to ban TikTok or any software applications that threaten U.S. national security. And make no mistake — TikTok is a security threat,” McCaul said in a statement, per The Hill. “Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into your phone.”
More than 25 state governments have banned downloading or accessing TikTok on state-owned networks or devices.
On Feb. 27, the Biden administration gave federal government agencies 30 days to make sure the app is not on any government-issued devices or system. The directive complies with the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, which Congress passed in December.
“The Biden-Harris administration has invested heavily in defending our nation’s digital infrastructure and curbing foreign adversaries’ access to Americans’ data,” said Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer, per AZ Central. “This guidance is part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy.”
The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Feb. 27 that it “strongly opposes” HB 1153. The organization argued the bill was a threat to the First Amendment.
“Congress must not censor entire platforms and strip Americans of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression,” said ACLU senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff in a statement. “Whether we’re discussing the news of the day, live streaming protests, or even watching cat videos, we have a right to use TikTok and other platforms to exchange our thoughts, ideas, and opinions with people around the country and around the world.”
TikTok has repeatedly denounced efforts to ban the platform in America.
“A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion people who use our service worldwide,” a TikTok spokeswoman told Reuters after the House Committee’s vote.
Following the committee’s vote, the bill is expected to be submitted to the full House for a vote sometime in March.