Legislation backed by the White House to restrict social media apps that pose a threat to national security will not ban TikTok critics say. TikTok has come under much scrutiny from former President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans over the last few years. Recently, some Democrats have seemingly started to fall in line with Republicans on this issue. Democratic Senator Mark Warner has been one of these gradual turnouts.
In late 2022, Warner joined the coalition of politicians speaking out against TikTok, including Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, as well as FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr as reported by American Pigeon.
“I think Donald Trump was right. I mean, TikTok is an enormous threat,” he told Fox News. “So, if you’re a parent, and you’ve got a kid on TikTok, I would be very, very concerned. All of that data that your child is inputting and receiving is being stored somewhere in Beijing.”
More recently, Warner teamed up with Republican Senator John Thune to introduce the RESTRICT Act. The RESTRICT Act aims to “address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries,” and to “mitigate information communications and technology transactions that pose undue risk to our national security,” according to his press release.
While the release mentions Chinese Huawei and ZTE as well as Russia’s Kaspersky lab, TikTok is also labeled as a threat that could “could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party.” As of publishing time, the bill has 19 cosponsors, ten of whom are Republicans, and nine Democrats.
This bill has three main purposes:
- To require the Secretary of Commerce to monitor, manage, and act upon technology products that enemies of the U.S. could use to gather information from U.S. users which would be considered a risk to national security.
- To create an effort to identify current and future risks the federal government takes with information technology products.
- To ensure the reasoning and evidence for any actions taken by the federal government upon these technologies is shared with the general public.
Oddly, though this act is meant to put a procedure in place to stop apps like TikTok in the U.S., the company made a statement in support of the bill, saying, “We appreciate that some members of Congress remain willing to explore options for addressing national security concerns that don’t have the effect of censoring millions of Americans. A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Though he agrees with the intention of the bill, Rubio has expressed that the bill “will not ban TikTok,” and that it is, “the illusion of action, but…not action.”
Rep. Jim Banks also criticized the Biden administration’s support of the bill.
“Congress already has produced multiple bills that would finish what the Trump administration started and ban TikTok,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. “The Biden administration is endorsing this half-measure to avoid confronting their biggest benefactors—China and Big Tech.”
In addition, amid discussion of the bill, TikTok hired a Democrat public relations firm to help with “communications support.” The firm, named SKDK, was in part founded by a current senior advisor of President Joe Biden, Anita Dunn. Another notable SKDK former employee is Kate Berner, currently serving as the White House communications director. Senator Chuck Schumer is also deeply related to SKDK, with it being said that the company is his “go-to communications firm,” according to The Washington Free Beacon.
One senior Republican aide made the point that “this is the same administration that invites TikTok influencers to the White House,” suggesting that it wasn’t likely that the White House would take action against the Chinese application.
The bill’s most recent official action was a referral to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for deliberation on March 7.