A bill to ban the video-sharing app TikTok from being downloaded on U.S. devices was introduced in Congress Wednesday by Republicans Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.).
The proposal stems from allegations raised by Hawley, Buck and other lawmakers, most of them Republicans, that the Chinese-based app poses national security risks. TikTok has denied those allegations, especially amid rising tensions with the federal and state governments.
The proposal would direct the president, by use of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, to block and prohibit transactions with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, with penalties for entities that attempt to evade the sanctions.
It would also require the director of national intelligence to submit a report and brief Congress on what the lawmakers characterized as threats to national security posed by TikTok, including the ability of the Chinese government to access U.S. user data and the ability of the Chinese government to use U.S. user data for “intelligence or military purposes, including surveillance, microtargeting, deepfakes, or blackmail.”
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement the proposed ban “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,” Oberwetter added.
A proposal to ban TikTok on government devices, also led by Hawley, passed as part of a $1.7 trillion federal funding bill at the end of last year. But Hawley and Buck’s proposal goes much further by proposing a restriction on TikTok across nongovernmental devices in the U.S., and faces a tougher road ahead, especially in a divided Congress.
A separate bill aiming to prohibit TikTok in the U.S. was introduced last year with bipartisan sponsors on the House side. That effort was led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.).
At the state level, many legislatures have passed bans on TikTok on government-issued devices.