House Panel Unanimously Advances Bill That Could Ban TikTok

‘TikTok’s access to 170 million American users makes it a valuable propaganda tool for the CCP,’ Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce on March 7 unanimously approved two bills to secure Americans’ data and compel social media giant TikTok to divest from its Chinese ownership.

The committee’s 50–0 decision will allow the bills to move forward in the House, although it’s unclear if the full Congress will express the same bipartisan support for the bills as the committee.

Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said the effort was essential to ending the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to “target, surveil, and manipulate Americans.”

“Protecting Americans’ data and addressing the serious national security threat posed by the CCP has been my top priority of all Congress,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said.

“We have given TikTok a clear choice: Divest from your parent company, which is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party, and remain in operation in the United States, or side with the Chinese Communist Party and face a ban.”

To underscore the issue’s importance, the committee voted to suspend rules that would prohibit their markup session from occurring less than a week after public notice, using an exemption carve-out for national security issues.

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“The Chinese Communist Party poses the greatest national security threat to the United States of our time,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said. “TikTok’s access to 170 million American users makes it a valuable propaganda tool for the CCP to exploit and use for nefarious purposes.

“Today, we take action.”

‘Controlled By a Foreign Adversary’

The committee held the bulk of its markup in a closed session in order to receive classified intelligence from various U.S. agencies.

Ms. McMorris Rodgers said such a mechanism was important to fully grasp how TikTok serves the CCP through its parent company, ByteDance.

The U.S. government is currently investigating ByteDance for using TikTok geolocation data to stalk and harass American journalists who uncovered the CCP’s guiding role in the company.

Ms. McMorris Rodgers related the incident to the regime’s laws, which allow the CCP to access any data stored within China, a mechanism she referred to as “spying by design.”

So long as TikTok remained under effective CCP control, it would remain a security threat, she said.

“Our adversaries choose to rule through fear and control,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said.

“Companies controlled by a foreign adversary like the CCP will never embrace American values, virtues of our society and culture like freedom of speech, human rights, the rule of law, a free press, and others.”

The committee also unanimously approved legislation that would ban the sale of Americans’ personal information to China by data brokers.

Currently, such brokers are allowed to vacuum up user data from virtually all websites and then sell that data directly to China.

Committee Ranking Democratic Member Franke Pallone (D-N.J.) likened the legislative effort to wartime restrictions on radio and television in the 20th century.

“Most Americans are unaware that data brokers compile dossiers about their interests, beliefs, actions, and movements, and Americans are powerless to stop this violation of their privacy,” he said.

TikTok Urges Users to Spam Members of Congress

The committee may have been galvanized to act following a massive spam campaign orchestrated by TikTok earlier in the morning.

The social media company began targeting users with location-specific information, giving them the contact information of their local representatives on the committee and urging them to demand a “no” vote.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) said such behavior was exactly why the bill must be passed.

“I think it’s just further reason why we need to ban TikTok,” Mr. Burlison told NTD, sister media outlet of The Epoch Times. “This company is clearly politically motivated.”

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) said his constituents were pressuring him to join TikTok and that it was in the United States’s best interest to allow the company to continue operating so long as it was divested from China.

“TikTok decided to kind of pivot and use their platform to engage their users so that members of Congress know that TikTok is popular and people like to use it,” Mr. Davidson said.

“We should do it in a neutral way. We shouldn’t go after one single company. We should go after the problem, which is the bulk export of U.S. citizens’ data.”

TikTok’s role in the American political cycle and the CCP’s alleged ability to effectively promote or suppress content on the platform have caused no shortage of ire in Congress, particularly following President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign’s decision to join TikTok last month.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) suggested that the Biden administration wasn’t really serious about passing the TikTok bill when it made its way through Congress.

“The Biden administration says one thing and does another,” Mr. Norman said. “You don’t open up an account of anything that you say you want to abolish.

“We’ve got to get completely separated from China as best we can. And the process starts by not letting them infiltrate the minds of young people and adults.”

Emel Akan, Steve Lance, and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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