America took a significant step on Tuesday towards a ban on the hugely popular TikTok app via a White House-backed bill, amid growing Western mistrust of the Chinese social network. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that he “welcomed” a bill tabled the same day that would, among other things, ban apps such as TikTok.
This text, carried by a Democratic senator and a Republican senator, “would allow the American State to prevent certain foreign States from operating technological services (…) in a way that threatens the confidential data of Americans and our national security,” the White House adviser wrote. Many American elected officials consider the platform of short and viral videos, which belongs to the Chinese group ByteDance, as a threat to national security.
They fear, along with a growing number of Western governments, that Beijing could access user data around the world through this app, something TikTok has denied for years. “It is widely accepted that TikTok poses a threat to our national security,” influential Republican Senator John Thune pleaded on Tuesday when presenting the text.
Concretely, the bill, dubbed “Restrict act” gives the Minister of Commerce new powers to ban this application. A competing bill, introduced in the House of Representatives, also passed a key milestone in Congress last week. Banning the app would be tantamount to “muzzling the freedom of expression” of millions of Americans, protests TikTok, which claims more than a hundred million users in the United States.
The app has already surpassed YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in “time spent” by US adults and is now hot on Netflix. At the end of February, the White House had already ordered federal institutions to ensure that TikTok disappears from their smartphones within 30 days, pursuant to a law ratified in early January by Joe Biden.