A US bill that would give Washington the power to ban the Chinese-owned video app TikTok has won backing from the White House.
The endorsement boosts the efforts of a number of lawmakers to ban the popular app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and used by more than 100 million Americans.
TikTok has come under increasing fire over fears that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.
The White House backed legislation introduced on Tuesday by a dozen senators to give the administration new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies.
The bill would give the Commerce Department the ability impose restrictions or ban technologies that pose national security risks, said Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who chairs the Intelligence Committee.
It would also apply to foreign technologies from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, he said.
TikTok criticised the measure, saying in a statement that any “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.”
The bill would require Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to identify and address foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services. Raimondo’s office declined to comment.
Warner said it was important the government do more to make clear what it believes are the national security risks from TikTok. “It’s going to be incumbent on the government to show its cards in terms of how this is a threat,” Warner said.
Raimondo, in a separate statement, said she “welcomes this legislative framework for addressing these threats and protecting Americans’ safety and national security” and vowed to work with senators “to advance this legislation through Congress.”
TikTok Congress Appearance
TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is due to appear before Congress on March 23.
The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, in 2020 unanimously recommended ByteDance divest TikTok because of fears that user data could be passed on to China’s government.
TikTok and CFIUS have been negotiating for more than two years on data security requirements. TikTok said it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.
“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years,” TikTok said Tuesday.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara