Senate bill would give Commerce Secretary the power to ban TikTok as a ‘security threat’

It’s not just House representatives who 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 technologies deemed a national security threat. The legislation would limit technology originating from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

The group was 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 vote in the House is expected later in March. That move is more targeted and intended to prevent Americans’ data from falling into the hands of the Chinese government. In December, a section of an omnibus spending bill banned TikTok from federal government uses following similar bans in several states.

In all cases, the concern remains the same. Critics worry that the Chinese government could use TikTok to collect data on Americans and spread propaganda. TikTok has repeatedly denied cooperation with Chinese officials, and has tried to allay fears by moving data and traffic to US-based servers. Oracle, which runs servers in the US, is reviewing TikTok’s algorithms and moderation system.

There is no guarantee that the Senate will pass the bill and reconcile it with the House equivalent. The Secretary of Commerce is also not guaranteed to exercise the power if granted. However, the introduction of the bill increased pressure on TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew as he testified in front of the House on March 23. He will fight with Congress that is more determined to limit his company’s business.

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