Senate Intel chair says his bill empowering commerce secretary to ban TikTok is gaining ground

"I can't think of a more perfect propaganda tool" than the popular, Chinese-owned video sharing app, said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Published: March 30, 2023 11:26pm

Updated: March 30, 2023 11:42pm

Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said his legislation paving the way for a TikTok ban is gaining more bipartisan support, with 26 cosponsors to date.

Warner previously revealed that the White House supports the legislation. 

The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act addresses national security threats posed by information and communications technology (ICT) affiliated with foreign adversaries by allowing the Commerce Department "to review, prevent, and mitigate ICT transactions that pose undue risk," according to Warner's office.

"We need a rules-based approach that would give the Secretary of Commerce the ability to require divestiture up to ban or other tools" to address threats when the department can prove they pose "a systemic national security risk," Warner said during a briefing with journalists on Thursday. "At the same time, we would still give TikTok its day in court."

Warner noted there are a lot of young Americans who are on TikTok up to 90 minutes a day. "And one of the addictive things about TikTok, they almost know more about what you like than you know," he said. "Because the magic of that algorithm? All that data would be turned over at the desire of the Communist Party.

"Now, is that happening in real time? There have been press reports that Chinese engineers are getting access to this, but I'm not saying it's done on a wholesale time at this point, but do we really want that [user] data — and the potential blackmail or other uses that could be used — in the hands of the Communist Party? At the same time, you know, I can't think of a more perfect propaganda tool."

Suppose, Warner suggested, that after Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he decided to flood the Chinese-owned platform with "videos that say, 'You know, Putin is right, Ukraine ought to be part of Russia.' That is a powerful propaganda tool that would make, frankly, other efforts at misinformation and disinformation pale." 

Warner rejected the notion the bill gives too much power to the secretary of commerce.

"The burden of proof lies on the secretary of commerce to make the case," he explained, adding that "if there are ways that we can make the language more explicitly clear, that's why you have a legislative process."

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