Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has proposed legislation that would ban TikTok from the US, the latest in a series of political blows to the social media platform — albeit one that seems relatively unlikely to land.
The tortuously named Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party (or ANTI-SOCIAL CCP) Act would require President Joe Biden to block all US transactions with TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. It directs Biden to use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to restrict access to the service, alleging that ByteDance’s collection of American user data and its vulnerability to Chinese government pressure pose a security threat.
Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives; Rubio did not name a Democratic co-sponsor in the Senate.
“TikTok offers the CCP a unique ability to monitor more than 1 billion users worldwide.”
Rubio and Gallagher announced their plans last month in a Washington Post article. “TikTok offers the CCP a unique ability to monitor more than 1 billion users worldwide, including nearly two-thirds of American teenagers,” the pair wrote. “Unless TikTok and its algorithm can be separated from Beijing, the app’s use in the United States will continue to jeopardize our country’s safety and pave the way for a Chinese-influenced tech landscape here.” As noted in the Post, the bill would also apply to other large Chinese social media companies, although it only names TikTok and ByteDance.
Today’s bill follows a series of state-level orders prohibiting TikTok on government devices. Utah and Texas banned the app from government-issued devices earlier this week on the heels of similar orders in South Dakota and Maryland. TikTok has been a sticking point for Republican politicians since the Trump administration — which tried and largely abandoned a full-scale nationwide ban, succeeding mainly in funneling money to Oracle through a data auditing deal.
Trump’s plans for a ban, which also invoked the IEEPA, were nebulous and controversial. They highlighted the expansive scope of presidential emergency powers but also drew heavy scrutiny from courts. The Biden administration then revoked Trump’s decision in 2021, replacing it with an order to examine TikTok for potential national security threats.
In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said TikTok was working to allay lawmakers’ fears. “It is 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,” said Oberwetter. “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.”
The Republican-controlled House could potentially pass a version of Rubio’s bill, but its odds in the Democrat-controlled Senate seem lower, and Biden himself seems unlikely to sign it. In the event it did pass, it would run into the same legal problems Trump did — plus the ire of millions of American users.
Update 1:55PM ET: Added statement from TikTok.