By Steve Schuster
Earlier this week U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined a bipartisan effort to introduce legislation giving the federal government more power to regulate overseas social media platforms that officials say are a threat to our national security.
“We need to protect Americans’ data and keep our country safe against today and tomorrow’s threats. While many of these foreign-owned technology products and social media platforms like TikTok are extremely popular, we also know these products can pose a grave danger to Wisconsin’s users and threaten our national security,” said Baldwin.
The legislation — “The Restrict Act” — does not specifically target TikTok, but instead improves the government’s “whack-a-mole approach” to foreign technology risks, according to one of the bill’s chief sponsors, Mark Warner (D-VA).
After consulting with the FBI and other officials, Gov. Tony Evers banned TikTok on state employee phones earlier this year.
At the time, Evers tweeted “Defending our state’s technology and cybersecurity infrastructure and protecting digital privacy will continue to be a top priority.”
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement the bill “would strengthen our ability to address discrete risks posed by individual transactions, and systemic risks posed by certain classes of transactions involving countries of concern in sensitive technology sectors.”
In December of last year, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (D-Green Bay) co-sponsored legislation calling for ban of TikTok.
“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,” Rep. Gallagher said.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., The RESTRICT Act establishes a risk-based process, tailored to the rapidly changing technology and threat environment, by directing the Department of Commerce to identify and mitigate foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services,” Baldwin said.
In addition to Sens. Baldwin, Mark Warner and John Thune, the legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).
According to Baldwin, The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act would:
- Require the Secretary of Commerce to establish procedures to identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, and mitigate transactions involving information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has any interest and poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security;
- Prioritize evaluation of information communications and technology products used in critical infrastructure, integral to telecommunications products, or pertaining to a range of defined emerging, foundational, and disruptive technologies with serious national security implications;
- Ensure comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products by requiring the Secretary to take up consideration of concerning activity identified by other government entities;
- Educate the public and business community about the threat by requiring the Secretary of Commerce to coordinate with the Director of National Intelligence to provide declassified information on how transactions denied or otherwise mitigated posed undue or unacceptable risk.
A copy of the bill text is available here.