Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced legislation in their respective chambers of Congress to ban TikTok in the U.S. according to CNN and other news outlets.
This bill, called The ANTI-SOCIAL CCP ACT (Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party), was introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois in the House and Sen. Rubio in the Senate.
The bill is aimed at “Blocking and prohibiting all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China, Russia, and several other foreign countries of concern.” We have a copy of the Senate bill available to view here.
While the language can appear a bit ambiguous, the goal of it is clear — to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. Or, more accurately, to prevent TikTok from operating in the U.S. while owned by a Chinese company overseen by the Chinese government.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. government has taken aim at TikTok. Former U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to force Chinese-owned ByteDance to divest from its North American operations and even attempted to ban the app. Ultimately, neither effort was successful. Nor was an FCC commissioner’s attempt to demand Apple and Google remove TikTok earlier this year. So it remains to be seen whether Sen. Rubio and Reps. Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi are more successful.
TikTok issued the following statement:
“It’s troubling that rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States."
“We will continue to brief members of Congress on the plans that have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies—plans that we are well underway in implementing—to further secure our platform in the United States."
Possible TikTok ban: What this means for you
For now, this bill does not impact U.S. TikTok users. In fact, it’s unlikely that the bill will have any impact on users for a while even if it does pass. Congress is only in session for a few more days and will almost certainly be unable to consider either version of the bill. Instead, the bill will need to be reintroduced next year if it is to move forward.
In the meantime, some state governments are taking action. Outgoing Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan banned state government employees from using the social media app on state IT infrastructure (networks, phones, etc). This followed similar bans from Republican Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem and Republican Governor of South Carolina Henry McMaster instituting similar bans. The House version of The ANTI-SOCIAL CCP ACT is notably the first official sign of bipartisan support for a TikTok ban.
Ultimately, a TikTok ban feels unlikely for now — which is not to say no action will be taken. Oracle and Microsoft have both seemed at times to be close to securing TikTok’s North American operations, and ByteDance divesting from the platform in the U.S. could still be a more likely outcome than an outright ban. Should a ban materialize, however, something like a TikTok VPN may be necessary to access to app.
While ByteDance remains in charge of TikTok users should use caution. The company remains under Chinese government oversight for now and reports this year have found that Chinese government officials can access U.S. user data. So be careful when you use the social media app.