Bill That Could Ban TikTok Advances In House

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday voted 50-0 in favor of two bills aimed at preventing the Chinese government from obtaining data about Americans, including a measure that could result in a ban on TikTok.

The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (H.R. 7521), introduced Tuesday by Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) and advanced by lawmakers on Thursday, would prohibit app stores or “internet hosting services” from offering TikTok, unless the app is sold by its parent company, the China-based ByteDance.

The other bill approved Thursday, Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Adversaries Act (H.R. 7520), would prohibit data brokers from transferring “sensitive” information to foreign adversaries or companies owned by foreign adversaries.



The Krishnamoorthi-Gallagher bill -- the more controversial of the pair -- sparked a lobbying campaign by TikTok that involved rallying users to voice opposition to Congress. 

Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) referenced that effort Thursday afternoon, arguing it showed how the Chinese Communist Party “can weaponize platforms like TikTok to manipulate the American people.”

“This morning, prior to our hearing, TikTok used its influence and power to force users to contact their representatives if they wanted to continue using TikTok,” Rodgers said before the vote.

A coalition of civil rights groups also urged lawmakers to reject the Krishnamoorthi-Gallagher bill, arguing it would violate the First Amendment.

“H.R. 7521 is censorship -- plain and simple,” the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future said in a letter sent to lawmakers on Wednesday.

“Passing this legislation would trample on the constitutional right to freedom of speech of millions of people in the United States,” the groups wrote. “TikTok is home to massive amounts of protected speech and association: it enables its users to discuss their opinions, share their hobbies, make art, and access news from down the street and around the world.”

TikTok stated after the vote that the bill attempts “to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression,” adding that doing so “will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Montana blocked enforcement of a state law that would have banned TikTok, ruling that the statute “oversteps state power and infringes on the Constitutional rights of users and businesses.”

Molloy added that the law wasn't “narrowly tailored” to prevent the Chinese government from accessing data about U.S. residents, noting that China could also gather similar information by purchasing it from data brokers, or through “open-source intelligence intelligence gathering.”

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