Time's up on TikTok

More than two years ago, President Trump recognized that TikTok threatened U.S. national security and moved to ban it, but courts ruled the president lacked authority to do so. TikTok’s close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and questionable handling of data are reason enough for concern, but various instances have also arisen that confirm our worst fears about its malicious potential.

It’s no surprise that many Americans agree that TikTok should be banned. And it’s why I recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would codify President Trump’s forward-looking effort to confront foreign-adversary technologies like TikTok that threaten our national security.

It’s widely acknowledged that TikTok poses a threat to U.S. national security. Intelligence agencies, tech experts, and a majority of Americans recognize this. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, which is headquartered in China, has access to its 150 million American users’ data and devices.

Under Chinese law, the government just has to ask for it and ByteDance would be required to hand over this data to the CCP. After a Chinese spy balloon traversed the United States in February collecting intelligence, it’s obvious that the CCP seeks to spy on Americans. TikTok is just another iteration of this threat. Before TikTok, Huawei and ZTE deployed technology in the United States that included “backdoors” that gave China access to global communications networks.

These risks aren’t going away. Four out of the five most-downloaded apps in the United States last month are Chinese-owned. We need to be able to confront foreign-adversary technologies in a holistic and dynamic way. My bipartisan bill, the RESTRICT Act, would establish a comprehensive process for identifying, evaluating, and mitigating foreign technology threats. The RESTRICT Act would allow the secretary of commerce to address technologies that have been determined to threaten U.S. national security and to do so in a timely manner. This process would end the whac-a-mole approach that has left the United States playing catch-up as potentially malicious foreign technologies establish footholds in the U.S. market.

The RESTRICT Act is the most effective option to address both TikTok and future technological threats. President Trump’s efforts to ban TikTok were struck down in federal court because they relied on a 1977 law that doesn’t suit the digital age we now live in. Other attempts to simply ban TikTok would likely face a similar fate, but the RESTRICT Act offers a rules-based process that is narrowly tailored to foreign-adversary companies, which is more likely to withstand judicial scrutiny. It builds upon President Trump’s executive order, modernizes the president’s power to fit the digital age, places guardrails on presidential authority, and gives Congress a clearly defined oversight role.

My bill takes a tailored approach to address foreign companies and technologies that threaten U.S. national security. Specifically, the RESTRICT Act targets technologies from six adversary countries: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela. While the secretary of commerce could remove or add countries to this list, Congress has authority to overrule the secretary. Importantly, the RESTRICT Act does not target the content individual Americans post online, and it does not provide the administration with any authority to censor Americans’ speech online. Again, it is narrowly focused on targeting foreign-adversary threats from places like China and Russia. This tailored approach safeguards U.S. national security from technological threats from our adversaries and upholds civil liberties.

Recent history indicates that communications technology will continue to be an area in which our adversaries seek to threaten U.S. national security interests. We need to have a policy that can address the modern and evolving threats that we face, whether it’s a video app like TikTok, telecommunications hardware like Huawei’s, or something altogether new, like the rapidly expanding artificial intelligence capabilities we have recently seen proliferate. The RESTRICT Act enables the United States to attack the challenges of today and tomorrow and keep America secure at all times.


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