Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would give the Biden administration more power to regulate — and potentially ban — TikTok.
The White House has indicated it supports the legislation.
The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or RESTRICT Act, would give the Secretary of Commerce more authority over transactions involving information and communications technology products that pose what the legislation calls an “undue or unacceptable” risk to U.S. national security.
The bill targets technology companies from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela. However, during a Tuesday press conference about the bill, senators focused much of their attention on TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
Sullivan emphasized bipartisan skepticism of the Chinese Communist Party in the Senate during the press conference.
“What we need to be doing is bringing all instruments of American power and American policy to address the Chinese Communist Party challenge,” Sullivan said. “That’s military, that’s energy, that’s technology, that’s our private sector, that’s our commitment to liberty and democracy.”
“I think this is a really important bill that fits one of the elements of our strategy on the tech side, particularly what they are doing to our citizens,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also noted that views on TikTok videos about the Willow project, a ConocoPhillips oil drilling prospect in Alaska, have spiked in the past week. Sullivan supports Willow and is among Alaska leaders pushing for the Biden administration to approve the project.
Sullivan said the surge could be the result of environmental groups’ opposition to the project, but also suggested “maybe that’s the Chinese Communist Party trying to influence young Americans.”
The bill’s introduction comes just months after President Joe Biden signed off on a bill banning TikTok from federal devices, citing privacy and security worries. The state of Alaska banned the application from state-owned devices in January.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune have led efforts on the RESTRICT Act. Along with Sullivan, five Democratic and four Republican senators have also joined as co-sponsors.
Sullivan has previously raised concerns about risks TikTok could pose to privacy and national security as well as the influence it could have on young people. In a January letter, he pressed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to hold a hearing looking into TikTok.
“The American people need to understand the ramifications of using this application,” Sullivan wrote in the letter.