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U.S. Sen. Cotton of Arkansas files bill to ‘eliminate the threat’ of TikTok

SAFETY on Social Media Act would remove blacklisted apps from app stores by Gazette Staff | March 19, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.

TikTok is in the crosshairs of proposed legislation filed last week by the junior U.S. senator from Arkansas.

Republican Tom Cotton on Thursday introduced the Stopping Attempts by Foreign Entities to Target Youths (SAFETY) on Social Media Act. The proposal would sanction untrustworthy social media services like TikTok that are controlled by China and other "adversary nations," the senator said in a news release.

The legislation, filed as S.872 in the 118th Congress, is titled "a bill to identify social media entities under the influence of certain foreign entities and to take measures to protect the United States from such entities, and for other purposes."

There are no co-sponsors to the bill.

Cotton, an attorney from Dardanelle, said the bill is a safeguard against cyber intrusion from the East.

"TikTok captures vast amounts of private information on users -- including American citizens -- and provides the Chinese Communist Party with access to that information. TikTok also allows the Chinese Communist Party to manipulate the content Americans see. This bill will eliminate the threat TikTok and apps like it pose to Americans' private information," the senator said.

The SAFETY act proposes --

blacklisting and sanctioning social media services like TikTok that are controlled by a "foreign entity of concern";

not leaving the decision to sanction the companies to the administration;

directing the Federal Communications Commission to remove blacklisted apps from app stores;

requiring internet service providers to block access to the sites of sanctioned companies;

making foreign employees of sanctioned companies ineligible for most visas; and

requiring U.S. national employees of sanctioned companies to register as foreign agents.

Violators would be subject to penalties outlined in the International Economic Powers Enhancement Act, including a fine of no more than $250,000 for a civil violation and $1 million for a criminal violation. U.S. nationals who violate the legislation would be subject to imprisonment up to 20 years.

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create videos up to 15 seconds long. The popular app is at the center of conflicts between China and other governments over technology and security that are disrupting processor chip, smartphone and other industries.

Governments are worried TikTok's owner, ByteDance, might give browsing history or other data about users to China's government or promote propaganda and disinformation, according to an article by The Associated Press.

"We call on the countries concerned to recognize the objective facts, effectively respect the market economy" and provide "a non-discriminatory environment" for all companies, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in the article.

Legislators and employees in New Zealand's Parliament will be prohibited from having TikTok 's app on phones, the government said Friday. Britain announced a ban Thursday on TikTok on all government phones.

In February, the White House told federal agencies to delete TikTok from government-issued mobile devices within 30 days. Congress, the U.S. armed forces and more than half of American state governments prohibit use of the app by their employees, according to the AP story.

India has banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, including the WeChat message service, on security and privacy grounds.

The United States also has imposed restrictions on access by Chinese companies to processor chip and other technology on security and human rights grounds.

The Chinese government accuses Washington of spreading false information about TikTok following a report by The Wall Street Journal that U.S. authorities were considering a ban if ByteDance doesn't sell the company, the AP reported.

The ruling Communist Party blocks most internet users in China from seeing TikTok and thousands of social media and other websites. ByteDance operates a sister short-video service, Douyin, that can be seen in China.

The Stopping Attempts by Foreign Entities to Target Youths on Social Media Act has been referred to the Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The full text of the bill is available here.


Information for this article was taken from The Associated Press.

photo Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

Print Headline: Cotton files bill to ‘eliminate the threat’ of TikTok


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