The popular social media app TikTok would be banned in the U.S. under a new bipartisan bill introduced in both houses of Congress this week by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and two representatives.
The bill comes as the Chinese-owned app is increasingly banned on state devices and follows years of U.S. officials warning the Chinese Communist Party could use the app to influence and spy on Americans.
Calling the app “digital fentanyl,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who introduced the bill in the House, said “it’s time to ban TikTok … before it’s too late.”
“Allowing the app to continue to operate in the U.S. would be like allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War,” he said. “No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen.”
The bill singles out TikTok for an immediate ban. But it also allows for other foreign social media companies to be banned if they come from “countries of concern.” Those countries are specified as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who also introduced the bill in the House, said it’s “imperative” to protect the U.S. from “social media networks that could be easily weaponized against us.”
With its unique video format and powerful algorithm, TikTok’s explosive growth in recent years made it the first foreign social media app to take hold in the U.S. But officials say its ultimate control by the Chinese Communist Party risks that China could intercept Americans’ data or influence them through its video algorithm.
TikTok officials have denied those potential risks. The government is currently negotiating a way for TikTok to stay in the U.S. that doesn’t require Beijing-based ByteDance to sell the valuable asset. But last month, one of five Federal Communications Commission members, calling for a total ban, said there isn’t “a world” where TikTok’s data could be kept from the CCP.
“This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day,” Rubio said. “We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China. There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company.”
The bill is called the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, short for the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act.
The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would ban TikTok from federal devices, but it isn’t clear it will go before the House in time to become law, the Washington Post reported.