Dec 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

A new bipartisan bill looks to ban TikTok in the U.S.

In this photo illustration a TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone.

Photo: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Federal lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the social media app TikTok from operating in the United States.

Why it matters: The new bipartisan bill comes after both the Biden administration and former President Trump shared concerns over the app and its security risks.

  • A number of states — including Utah, Maryland, and Texas — have already sought to prohibit the use of TikTok in government agencies.

Details: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced the legislation on Tuesday.

  • Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) introduced companion legislation in the House.
  • However, Rubio does not have a Democratic co-sponsor in the Senate.

What he said: "From the FBI Director to FCC Commissioners to cybersecurity experts, everyone has made clear the risk of TikTok being used to spy on Americans," Rubio's office said in a press release.

  • Rubio said TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, is required by Chinese law to turn over TikTok data to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
  • The bill, when abbreviated, is called the A.N.T.I.S.O.C.I.A.L.C.C.P. Act.
  • The legislation "would protect Americans by 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," the release said.

Flashback: Last month, Rubio and Gallagher argued for a ban on TikTok in a Washington Post op-ed.

Context: Banning TikTok has been the subject of discussion in Washington for years. Former President Trump previously threatened to ban TikTok if it wasn't sold. Senior officials in the Biden administration have also expressed concerns.

The other side: Facing review from Treasury's Council on Foreign Investment in the U.S., TikTok has said that it is putting data for American users in U.S.-based Oracle data centers, as Axios previously reported.

Thought bubble via Axios' Javier David: An argument that was once easy to dismiss because former President Trump was making it — namely that TikTok is a national security threat — has gotten a lot more credible, with the FBI director expressing concerns, and the US military and states moving to ban the app outright.

  • TikTok has largely managed to escape all the sound and fury around data privacy and content moderation that's engulfed other social media platforms but is now getting more critical attention, given its growing influence on pop culture.

What's next: Not having a Democratic co-sponsor doesn’t bode well for Rubio's bill in the Senate. But concerns over TikTok have been present among both parties.

  • Democrats may be hesitant to act before the CFIUS rules whether or not to ByteDance to divest from TikTok in the U.S.

More from Axios:

FCC commissioner says government should ban TikTok

TikTok chases Amazon with plans for U.S. fulfillment centers

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