A bipartisan group of senators introduced RESTRICT Act last March with the goal to ban and restrict TikTok, a video-sharing platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance, due to security concerns. The White House then endorsed RESTRICT Act as “a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans.” Now, Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, is calling for amendments to be made to the RESTRICT Act.
Banning TikTok is not as successful as the policymakers think
Attempts to ban TikTok have been made. However, U.S. courts questioned the constitutionality of a complete ban on a social media platform widely used by millions of Americans. Arguments were made about potential violations of free speech rights. The difficulty of distinguishing between national security threats and ordinary user-generated content is also a hot topic.
Plus, an outright ban could have economic repercussions, especially when thousands of content creators’ income rely on TikTok.
Protecting Americans’ data with the Foreign Surveillance Act
One of the alternatives proposed in response to TikTok’s presence is the “Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Surveillance Act.” This legislative proposal aims to strengthen data protection and security measures concerning foreign-owned apps like TikTok.
The proposed act intends to establish stringent requirements for apps owned by foreign companies. It mandates transparency in data collection, storage and usage practices. It also seeks to provide users with clear information about how their data is being utilized and to ensure that data is stored securely within the United States or in countries that meet specific data security standards.
Cantwell’s proposed RESTRICT Act amendment
In light of the challenges faced in completely banning TikTok, Senator Maria Cantwell has proposed an amendment to the existing RESTRICT Act. Senator Cantwell aims to safeguard national security while also acknowledging the app’s popularity among Americans. The amendment intends to lessen potential risks associated with TikTok’s ownership by introducing tailored restrictions and oversight measures.
One of the main focuses of Cantwell’s proposed amendments is establishing a multi-stakeholder task force. This task force would conduct in-depth evaluations of the potential risks associated with TikTok’s Chinese ownership and data practices.
Where to strike a balance
Adding restrictions to an app with millions of users will be complicated and require thorough planning. Thus, policymakers must strike a balance between national security concerns and user freedom to use such apps. We’ll see how the amendments will affect the bill’s balance in that regard.