TikTok would be tough to ban in the U.S. without a new law, experts say
The Biden administration is under pressure to ban the popular Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, but such a move could hinge on the passage of new laws that strengthen the government’s powers to regulate speech. highly likely, experts said.
China’s ByteDance-owned TikTok banned by lawmakers and national security hawks over concerns TikTok could denounce content, influence users and pass personal data of Americans to Beijing pressure is increasing.
A court blocked an earlier bid by the Trump administration to ban the app on the grounds that such a move would violate free speech protections.
So the move to block apps is like RESTRICT ACT, a bipartisan bill introduced by senators this month that gives the Commerce Department new powers to ban foreign technology that poses national security risks. means that it is likely to be dependent on the passing of relevant laws. That would circumvent speech protections embedded in existing laws, lawyers and China Watchers said.
Emily Kilkrees, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former deputy chief of staff, said, “RESTRICT is very useful because it gives you completely new legal powers from the ground up under other laws.” increase. US Trade Representative. “It’s a much stronger, cleaner legal authority.”
TikTok has previously criticized the RESTRICT law, saying, “The Biden administration does not need additional powers from Congress to address national security concerns about TikTok. It has spent the past six months over the two years. We can approve the deal we negotiated (with the Biden administration),” he said. “
TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday and face tough questions from lawmakers who want to ban the app.
TikTok, which FBI Director Christopher Wray said in November could be used to “control software on millions of devices,” was called for review in 2019 by powerful Republican Senator Marco Rubio. It has been in the sights of the U.S. government for years since.
A court has dismissed former President Donald Trump’s attempt to block TikTok in 2020 with an executive order giving the Department of Commerce similar powers to the RESTRICT Act.
In that case, the executive order Trump relied on had a major stumbling block. It derives its powers from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which opens up the importation and exportation of “informational materials” and “personal communications” through the Berman Amendment. , tried to protect speech.
Meanwhile, a move by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a powerful body that scrutinizes foreign investment for national security risks, to force ByteDance to sell its U.S. TikTok business has stalled in negotiations two and a half years later. status remains.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan endorsed the Restrictions Act on March 7, citing “the individual risks posed by each transaction and the specific class of countries involved in sensitive technology areas. It will enhance our ability to address the systemic risks posed by trading.”
However, the bill is unlikely to provide an immediate solution to those calling for the app to be banned. It’s also not yet clear when Congress will pick up on it, and some believe it could accompany year-end defensive measures.
Some experts say even using new legal tools to ban TikTok could challenge the First Amendment.
“Realistically, I don’t think the tool will be effective until 2024,” said CFIUS attorneys Nicholas Klein and DLA Piper. “And if it were used to ban TikTok, it would most likely lead to legal challenges.”
(Written by Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson, edited by Chris Sanders and Anna Driver)