WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would regulate social media apps like TikTok amid heightened privacy concerns with China.
The Restrict Act, introduced by Senators Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., would give the secretary of Commerce the power to ban TikTok — an app used by more than 100 million Americans.
Lawmakers’ primary concern on Tuesday was the ability of the Chinese government to steal data from American users.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a co-sponsor of the bill said the legislation is “… necessary, overdue, and needs to get passed as soon as possible.” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said his granddaughter — who uses the app — recommended finding an “alternative” that is “safer.”
According to NewsNation affiliate The Hill, the bill would empower the secretary to take measures against technology companies based in six countries labeled as foreign adversaries. The six countries are China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.
“We need a more comprehensive approach to evaluating and mitigating these threats posed by these foreign Technologies from these adversarial nations,” Warner said Tuesday.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a similar bill last week.
Brooke Oberwetter, TikTok’s American policy communications head, told Yahoo Finance in a statement Thursday that “a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion people who use our service worldwide.”
There are longstanding concerns in Washington about the app — whose U.S. operations are currently undergoing a national security review. There’s no public evidence that Beijing has used its sweeping powers over businesses in China to direct content on the app or launch government-sanctioned propaganda operations.
NATO-member Denmark’s Defense Ministry on Monday banned its employees from having the video-sharing app TikTok on their work phones as a cybersecurity measure.
It’s the latest public sector-related ban over security and data privacy for the app, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. Several countries, including Canada and Taiwan, have banned the app on government-issued phones.
Last week, the U.S. said government agencies have 30 days to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems. More than half of U.S. states, Congress, and the European Union’s executive branch have already prohibited it from devices used for official business amid worries that TikTok could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or sweep up users’ information.
President Joe Biden endorsed the bill on Tuesday and said he would work with both parties to get the legislation to his desk.
But experts believe a total ban on the app may be a lofty promise.
“A full-scale ban of TikTok across the United States is very unlikely to happen,” said tech reporter Shibani Joshi. “It would be really unprecedented for the U.S. government to come in and intervene in private businesses in such a way — to remove the application.”
According to Time, other countries have more stringent bans. Citing privacy concerns, India banned the app altogether in 2020 after an armed conflict at the Himalayan border left 20 Indian soldiers dead. The app was also completely banned in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.