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White House backs bill to allow ban on Chinese-owned TikTok

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan claims the law addresses “technology-based threats” to Americans.

The Biden administration has backed a bipartisan bill that would give Washington the power to ban the China-owned video app TikTok in the United States.

The bill, introduced by a dozen Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, would allow US President Joe Biden to ban technologies deemed by the US Department of Commerce to pose an “unnecessary or unacceptable risk” to national security.

The move marks a serious escalation in efforts to curb TikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, following a ban on the use of the app on government devices by the Biden administration and more than two dozen state governments.

The US government and law enforcement officials have alleged that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, can be used to spy on Americans, siphon sensitive personal data and manipulate public opinion.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the so-called RESTRICT Act, which would also apply to technology from other US adversaries such as Russia, North Korea and Iran, “provides technology-based threats to security and safety of Americans”.

“This will help us address the threats we face today and also prevent such risks from occurring in the future,” Sullivan said in a statement.

“We look forward to continuing to work with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the president’s desk.”

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who introduced the legislation along with co-sponsors including Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republicans Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, said the administration should do more to explain TikTok’s perceived risks and “let its cards go.” see in terms of how this poses a threat”. .

“Today, TikTok is the threat everyone is talking about, and how it could enable Chinese Communist Party surveillance or facilitate the spread of malicious influence campaigns in the US,” Warner said in a statement.

TikTok expressed disappointment with the bill, with spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter saying in a statement that banning the app would effectively ban “the export of American culture and values ​​to the more than one billion people who use our service worldwide “.

TikTok, used by more than 100 million Americans, has repeatedly urged not to share personal data with the Chinese government and has been negotiating for months with the United States’ Committee on Foreign Investment over ways to address national security concerns.

Some legal experts have argued that a ban would violate the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, with the American Civil Liberties Union expressing concern last month about any attempt to violate Americans’ right to “speak our thoughts, exchange ideas and opinions”. with people across the country and around the world”.

In January, Al Jazeera revealed that cybersecurity officials in the state of Connecticut chose not to ban TikTok on government devices after receiving advice from the FBI that the app’s ban elsewhere was based on “news reports and other open source information about China in general.” . , not specific to Tik Tok”.