The White House announced on Tuesday its support for a new bipartisan bill in the Senate that could grant the executive branch the authority to ban TikTok, according to a press release.
The bill, titled the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, was introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) on Tuesday at a press conference. It would allow the Department of Commerce to “prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services operating in the United States in a way that poses risks to Americans’ sensitive data and our national security,” according to the release.
“This legislation would provide the U.S. government with new mechanisms to mitigate the national security risks posed by high-risk technology businesses operating in the United States,” the White House said.
The bill does not mention TikTok by name, but appears to be aimed at giving the president the authority to ban the Chinese-owned app if it violates the proposed rule. The legislation would require the Secretary of Commerce to establish rules that would identify and mitigate “transactions involving information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has any interest and poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security,” according to a statement given to the press at the announcement.
In an interview with Fox News, Warner admitted his bill could be used to ban TikTok.
The White House encouraged the Senate to pass the legislation and said the bill would “help us address the threats we face today, and also prevent such risks from arising in the future.”
Critics argued that there was the potential for the bill to make it harder for the U.S. to ban TikTok.
The bill does not allow the president to ban any “transactions” cleared under the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and TikTok is currently under review by CFIUS. It’s unclear how that decision will play out, however.
Others have questioned the idea of giving the president the power to ban foreign apps.
“Astounding to me that we lived through four years of Trump and there are still Democrats who think it’s a great idea to give the president enormous executive power to deem platforms for speech as “security threats” and ban them,” said Evan Greer, director of internet rights group Fight for the Future.
In the statement, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the administration urges “Congress to act quickly to send it to the president’s desk.”