(WASHINGTON) — The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would give President Joe Biden the authority to ban TikTok in the United States despite objections from some lawmakers and advocates who say the measure could disrupt online speech freedoms.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday he hasn’t read the bill yet and wouldn’t comment on it. Ultimately, it would be up to McCarthy and House GOP leadership to bring the bill to the floor, where it would be expected to pass.
The Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act — or the DATA Act — aims to create a legal framework that would allow the executive branch to ban TikTok and other apps owned by Chinese companies.
The bill, introduced Friday by Committee Chair Mike McCaul, R-Texas, before moving quickly through the committee process, would allow President Biden or any future president to impose sanctions, including a possible ban, against any company that “knowingly provides or may transfer sensitive personal data” to any foreign person or company that is “subject to the jurisdiction or direction of … China.”
The panel’s vote comes just days after the Biden administration ordered federal agencies 30 days to ensure they do not have TikTok on any federal devices, and to ensure that contractors meet the same standard within 90 days. TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, has long maintained that it does not share data with the Chinese government and that its data is not held in China.
The legislation would change what’s known as the Berman amendment to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which blocks the U.S. government from restricting the free flow of “information and informational materials” in overseas trade. Those amendments have always been considered an impediment for any executive action to ban TikTok.
Democrats on the committee warned the bill is overly broad. In a letter to McCaul and Ranking Member Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the Americans Civil Liberties Union warned this legislation “creates a slippery slope” that could “erode” the Berman amendment’s protections for the free flow of movies, books, and artwork.
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