The Biden administration has supported a bill that would allow the federal government to ban the Chinese-owned video application TikTok in the United States.
The bill, presented in the Senate by a dozen Republicans and Democrats, would allow US President Joe Biden to ban technologies considered by the US Commerce Department to pose an "unacceptable or excessive risk" to national security.
The move is a significant escalation in efforts to restrict TikTok, one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, following bans on the app's usage on government devices by the Biden administration and more than two dozen state governments.
US government and law enforcement officials have asserted that Chinese company ByteDance's TikTok might be used to spy on Americans, siphon sensitive personal data, and manipulate public opinion.
Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor for the White House, stated that the so-called RESTRICT Act, which would also apply to technology from other US rivals, including Russia, North Korea, and Iran, would address "technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans."
Sullivan stated, "This will help us address the threats we face today and prevent such risks from arising in the future."
"We look forward to continuing to collaborate with Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and we urge Congress to send it to the President's desk swiftly."
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who introduced the legislation along with Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, stated that the government should do more to explain the alleged risks of TikTok and "show its cards in terms of how this is a threat."
Warner stated, "Today, everyone is talking about how TikTok could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party or facilitate the spread of malignant influence campaigns in the United States."
Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, stated that banning the app would effectively prohibit "the export of American culture and values to the more than one billion people who use our service worldwide."
TikTok, which over 100 million Americans use, has repeatedly stated that it has not and will not share personal information with the Chinese government. It has been negotiating with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for months to address national security concerns.
Some legal experts have argued that a ban would violate the free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, with the American Civil Liberties Union expressing concern over any move to restrict the right of Americans to "exchange our thoughts, ideas, and opinions with people around the country and the world" last month.
Al Jazeera reported in January that Connecticut cybersecurity officials decided not to ban TikTok on government devices after receiving advice from the FBI that bans on the app in other states were based on "news reports and other open source information about China in general, not specific to Tik Tok."