The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier to ban TikTok and crack down on other China-related economic activity. The Biden administration could impose a nationwide ban under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
Bill to Impose Penalties on TikTok and ByteDance
The legislation, known as H.R. 1153 or the Deterring America's Technological Adversaries Act, specifically names TikTok and its parent company ByteDance. If the Biden administration determines that the companies have transferred user data to the Chinese government, penalties, including a ban, would be imposed. Sanctions will also be required if the companies are found to have helped the Chinese government in hacking, censorship, or intelligence-gathering.
Bill Weakens 35-Year-Old Law Protecting Free Flow of Information
The bill weakens a 35-year-old law, the Berman Amendment to IEEPA, which prohibited the U.S. government from restricting the free flow of "informational materials" to and from foreign countries. The legislation considers "sensitive personal data" not protected by the Berman Amendment, allowing the U.S. government to restrict the international data flow under IEEPA.
TikTok Responds to Proposed Ban
In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter called for the Biden administration to finalize a national security deal to address concerns. Oberwetter stated that over 100 million Americans use and love TikTok and that it would be unfortunate if the House Foreign Affairs Committee censored millions of Americans based on a misunderstanding.
ACLU Blasts Legislation as Vague and Overbroad
The American Civil Liberties Union called the legislation "vague and overbroad" and accused lawmakers of rushing the bill to a committee vote without a hearing. According to the ACLU, the bill risks violating Americans' First Amendment rights to free expression and could expose Americans to enormous legal risks. The organization also aimed at the bill's changes to the Berman Amendment, calling them a slippery slope that could lead to further efforts to chip away at the law.