It’s not just House representatives that want the federal government to ban TikTok. A bipartisan alliance of senators has introduced a bill that would give the Commerce Secretary the authority to ban TikTok and other foreign technology perceived as a national security threat. The would-be law would be limited to tech emerging from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.
The group is led by senators Mark Warner and John Thune. It includes high-profile politicians from both parties, including Joe Manchin and Mitt Romney.
The move comes just days after the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced a bill, the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries (DATA) Act, in a partisan vote. A House vote is expected later in March. That measure is more targeted and meant to prevent Americans’ data from falling into the hands of the Chinese government. In December, a section of an omnibus spending bill banned TikTok on federal government devices following similar restrictions in multiple states.
In all cases, the concern remains the same. Critics are concerned the Chinese government might use TikTok to collect data on Americans and spread propaganda. TikTok has repeatedly denied cooperation with Chinese officials, and has tried to assuage fears by moving data and traffic to US-based servers. Oracle, which runs the US servers, has been reviewing TikTok’s algorithms and moderation systems.
There’s no certainty the Senate will pass its bill and reconcile it with a House equivalent. The Commerce Secretary also isn’t guaranteed to exercise the power if granted. However, the introduction of the bill adds pressure to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew as he testifies before the House on March 23rd. He’ll be fighting a Congress that’s even more determined to limit his company’s business.