The US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted to give President Joe Biden the power to ban Chinese-owned social media app TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, among other Chinese-owned businesses.
US lawmakers voted 24 to 16 to approve the measure to grant the administration new powers to ban the ByteDance-owned app that is used by more than 100 million Americans.
The measure would need to be passed by the full House and US Senate before it can go to Biden.
The vote followed a lengthy debate Tuesday by panel members who were split along party lines on the proposal.
The legislation would empower the Biden administration to impose a nationwide TikTok ban under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
The bill’s text specifically names TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, and requires Biden to impose penalties against the companies if the administration determines they may have knowingly transferred TikTok’s user data to “any foreign person” working for or under the influence of the Chinese government.
Sanctions would also be required if the Biden administration finds the companies helped the Chinese government engage in surveillance or intelligence-gathering.
Critics say the bill weakens a 35-year-old law, known as the Berman Amendment to IEEPA, that prohibited the US government from restricting the free flow of “informational materials”.
In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said, “A US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide.” “We’re disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward, despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok.”
“TikTok Inc. is a US company bound by US law,” Oberwetter said, “and we are two years and $1.5 billion dollars deep into a project to go above and beyond existing law to secure the US version of the TikTok platform.” the spokesperson said.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union blasted the legislation as “vague and overbroad,” and accused lawmakers of rushing the bill to a committee vote within days of its introduction without holding a hearing on the proposal.
In seeking to restrict access to a specific social media platform, the bill risks violating Americans’ First Amendment rights to free expression, the ACLU said.
China blasts ‘unreasonable’ crackdown
Denouncing the US government’s recent ban on a Chinese firm’s short video-sharing app TikTok, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday slammed Washington for its abuse of state power in unreasonably cracking down on businesses from other countries.
Mao Ning at a press briefing in Beijing in Beijing said that as the world’s No.1 power, the US is actually so afraid of a mobile app that young people like, and that is rather too unconfident.
“We firmly oppose the US’ wrong practice of generalizing the concept of national security and abusing state power to unreasonably suppress companies from other countries,” Mao said, urging the US to respect fair competition principles and stop crackdowns on relevant companies.
Following a series of moves against TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, the White House on Monday asked US government agencies to get rid of the app from official devices and systems within 30 days.