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Forget influencers. 'Deinfluencing' is now a thing
01:44 - Source: CNN Business
Washington CNN  — 

A powerful House committee voted to advance legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier to ban TikTok from the United States and crack down on other China-related economic activity, amid vocal objections from some lawmakers and civil liberties advocates who argue the proposal is unconstitutionally broad and threatens a wide range of online speech.

The legislation — introduced Friday and fast-tracked by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul — would empower the Biden administration to impose a nationwide TikTok ban under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

The bill’s text specifically names TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, and requires President Joe Biden to impose penalties against the companies, up to and potentially including a ban, if the administration determines they may have knowingly transferred TikTok’s user data to “any foreign person” working for or under the influence of the Chinese government.

Sanctions would also be required if the Biden administration finds the companies helped the Chinese government engage in surveillance, hacking, censorship or intelligence-gathering; facilitated election meddling in the United States or in another democratic ally; or helped the Chinese government influence US policymaking, among other things.

The bill, known as H.R. 1153 or the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act, also weakens a 35-year-old law, known as the Berman Amendment to IEEPA, that prohibited the US government from restricting the free flow of “informational materials” such as movies, photos, news and eventually electronic media to and from foreign countries, even those under US sanction. Legal experts and even some TikTok creators have cited the Berman Amendment as a potential barrier to a nationwide TikTok ban because it may violate the Berman Amendment’s protections for electronic information.

The legislation considered this week specifies that “sensitive personal data” does not qualify for the Berman Amendment’s protections, allowing the US government to impose restrictions on the international flow of data under IEEPA.

The legislation reflects US lawmakers’ urgency amid fears that TikTok or ByteDance could be pressured by the Chinese government to hand over the personal information of its US users. US officials have said that the data could benefit China by facilitating targeted misinformation campaigns or by providing it with intelligence targets.

In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter called for the Biden administration to finalize a proposed national security deal that has been in the works for years and that is designed to address those concerns.

“A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement. “We’re disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward, despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok.”

In an earlier statement, Oberwetter called for the Biden administration to finalize a proposed national security deal that has been in the works fo