White Home approves Senate TikTok invoice and urges Congress to move it quickly

U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and other U.S. senators unveil legislation that would allow the Biden administration to “ban” foreign tech products like Chinese video app TikTok during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in March or to ban”. 7th, 2023.

Bonnie Cash | Reuters

The White House on Tuesday backed a new bipartisan Senate bill that would give the Biden administration the power to ban TikTok in the US

The legislation would empower the Department of Commerce to review deals, software updates, or data transmissions through information and communications technology in which a foreign adversary has an interest. TikTok, which has become a viral sensation in the US by allowing kids to create and share short videos, is owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance.

Under the new proposal, if the Commerce Secretary determines a transaction poses an “unreasonable or unacceptable risk” to U.S. national security, it can be referred to the President for action, up to and including a forced divestment.

The bill was dubbed the RESTRICT Act, which stands for Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, formally introduced the legislation on Capitol Hill along with a bipartisan group of Senate co-sponsors. The White House issued a statement publicly endorsing the bill, while Warner briefed reporters.

“This law provides a systematic framework to address technology-based threats to the security of Americans,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement, adding that it would provide the government with new tools to mitigate national security risks in the technology sector.

Sullivan urged Congress to “act quickly to send the bill to the President’s desk.”

“Critically, it would strengthen our ability to address discrete risks created by individual transactions and systemic risks created by certain classes of transactions involving countries of concern in sensitive technology sectors,” Sullivan said.

A TikTok spokeswoman did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Sullivan’s statement marks the first time a TikTok bill has received the Biden administration’s explicit support in Congress, and it catapulted Warner’s bill to the top of a growing list of congressional proposals to ban TikTok.

As of Tuesday, Warner’s legislation had not had a companion version in the House. But Warner told CNBC he already has “a lot of interest” from both Democrats and Republicans in the lower chamber.

Warner declined to say who he and Republican co-sponsor Sen. John Thune, RSD, might ask for assistance in the House of Representatives, but added, “I’m very pleased with the keen interest we’ve received from some of ours.” Housemates.”

Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bill that would force the president to impose sanctions on Chinese companies that could potentially leak Americans’ private information to a foreign adversary.

But unlike Warner’s bill, the House legislation known as the DATA Act has no Democratic backers, and it has advanced out of committee along party lines, making its prospects in the Senate with a Democratic majority difficult.

Senators introducing the bill Tuesday stressed that unlike some other proposals, their legislation does not single out individual companies. Instead, it aims to create a new framework and legal process for identifying and mitigating specific threats.

“The RESTRICT Act is about more than just TikTok,” Warner told reporters. “He’s going to give us that comprehensive approach.”

The new Senate bill defines foreign adversaries as the governments of six countries: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. It also says it will apply to information and communications technology services that have at least 1 million active US users per year or that have sold at least 1 million units to US customers in the past year.

That could go far beyond TikTok, which claims it had 100 million monthly active users in the US in 2020

The company came under scrutiny by the US Committee on Foreign Relations following ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, a precursor to the popular video-sharing app.

But that process has stalled, and lawmakers and administration officials are impatient to address what they see as a critical national security risk. TikTok has claimed that CFIUS approval of a new risk mitigation strategy is the best way forward.

“The Biden administration does not need additional powers from Congress to address national security concerns related to TikTok: it can approve the deal negotiated with CFIUS over two years, which it has been reviewing for the past six months,” said Brooke Oberwetter, spokeswoman for TikTok, in a statement before the text of the law was released.

“A US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values ​​to the more than 1 billion people who use our service worldwide,” the company said. “We hope Congress will seek solutions to their national security concerns that do not result in the voices of millions of Americans being censored.”

Will Farrell, TikTok’s interim security officer, described in a speech Monday the multi-pronged approach the company plans to take to mitigate the risk that the Chinese government could disrupt its operations in the United States

The so-called Project Texas would be involved in this oracle hosts its data in the cloud with strict procedures on how that information can be accessed and even sends verified code directly to the mobile app stores where users can find the service.

Farrell said TikTok’s commitments would result in an “unprecedented level of transparency” for such a tech company.

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