by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
White House-backed legislation to “ban” TikTok is toothless and includes a loophole that will let the Biden administration avoid taking real action against the Chinese social media app, according to congressional China hawks pushing for more direct action.
The behind-the-scenes pushback from lawmakers could end up sinking the Senate bill, known as the RESTRICT Act, which would give the president new authorities to restrict social media applications run by foreign adversaries. But the bill does not make any specific mention of TikTok, and critics say the White House is backing the legislation precisely because it doesn’t require the administration to ban the social media platform, which has been deemed a national security threat.
“Congress already has produced multiple bills that would finish what the Trump administration started and ban TikTok,” Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) told the Washington Free Beacon. “The Biden administration is endorsing this half-measure to avoid confronting their biggest benefactors—China and Big Tech.”
The bill does not include a ban on the TikTok app itself, but it allows the Commerce Department to identify and potentially prohibit any technology that “poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security.” TikTok has lent its support to the bill, praising it for addressing “national security concerns” without “censoring millions of Americans” who use the app.
Amid allegations that China uses the app to spy on Americans and push Communist propaganda, Democrats have been hesitant to support an outright ban on the platform, which is popular with its progressive base and which Biden has used as a voter outreach tool. TikTok recently hired Democratic lobbying powerhouse SKDK, a firm with deep ties to the White House and Democratic Senate leadership. Anita Dunn, a founding partner of SKDK, is a senior adviser to Biden.