Congress introduces bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok in U.S.

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Some in Congress are calling for a cease to U.S. TikTok activity.

Governmental efforts to halt the use of TikTok in the U.S. are gaining serious momentum.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok from operating in the United States. The “Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act)” would block and prohibit all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China, Russia, and several other foreign countries of concern.

However, the legislation’s sponsors have publicly stated that its main target is TikTok, the hugely popular global short video platform owned by a China-based company, Byte Dance, whose critics accuse it of having ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” said Sen. Rubio. “This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day. We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.” 

“TikTok is digital fentanyl that’s addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news. It’s also an increasingly powerful media company that’s owned by ByteDance, which ultimately reports to the Chinese Communist Party – America’s foremost adversary. No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen, which is why it’s time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it’s too late,” said Rep. Gallagher.

“At a time when the Chinese Communist Party and our other adversaries abroad are seeking any advantage they can find against the U.S. through espionage and mass surveillance, it is imperative that we do not allow hostile powers to potentially control social media networks that could be easily weaponized against us,” said Rep. Krishnamoorthi.

Read more about the act here.

TikTok comes under continuing U.S. scrutiny

As TikTok reportedly looks to invest in workforce and facilities to support expanded U.S. e-commerce, the Biden administration has also been continuing to express serious regulatory concerns which began under the Trump administration.

Citing possible ByteDance connections to the Chinese Communist Party, the Trump administration had been actively attempting to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless it established a separate business with at least partial U.S. ownership. In a June 2022 tweet, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Brendan Carr publicly called on Apple and Google parent Alphabet to remove the TikTok app from their app stores.

In response, TikTok has publicly said 100% of its U.S. user traffic is now being routed to U.S.-based Oracle Cloud infrastructure as a default storage location and that it is developing additional steps to ensure the security of U.S. user data.

U.S. retailers, consumers cozy up to TikTok

Security concerns have not so far stopped U.S. consumers or retailers from actively pursuing shopping-related activities on the platform, which focuses on user-generated short-form videos.

Retailers including Walmart, Saks and Instacart have partnered with TikTok, and Bazaarvoice data indicates TikTok shopping levels grew 567% in 2021. And earlier in December, Amazon added a Tik Tok-inspired feature called Inspire to its shopping app. Inspire is designed to provide customers with a new way to discover ideas, explore products, and seamlessly shop from content created by other customers, influencers, and brands.

In addition, media reports have indicated TikTok is testing an e-commerce feature called TikTok Shop in the U.S. TikTok Shop currently operates in the U.K. and Southeast Asia. The pilot of TikTok Shop in the U.S. is said to be part of a larger effort by TikTok’s parent company, China-based ByteDance, to establish a robust livestream shopping business in the U.S. which it internally refers to as “Project Aquaman.”

[Read more: Report: TikTok pilots in-app commerce in the U.S.]