Gallagher says bipartisan TikTok bill is not a ban

The author of fast-tracked legislation regulating China’s influence over TikTok said the legislation is not a ban on the popular app, pushing back against criticism from the company and some legislators.

House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) emphasized during a press event on Wednesday that the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, a bill that he introduced Tuesday with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), is not designed to ban TikTok but to sever its connection to its China-based parent company ByteDance and to the Chinese Communist Party.

The bill would make it unlawful for app stores to host social media applications owned by companies connected to “foreign adversaries” such as China, Russia, or Iran, specifically focusing on TikTok and its parent company ByteDance. It would also give the president the power to designate other social media apps as being controlled by foreign adversaries and force divestments.

“In the carefully, narrowly focused bill we’ve come up with here, TikTok could live on and people could do whatever they want on it, provided there is that separation [of ByteDance and TikTok],” Gallagher told reporters. “Again, it is not a ban. Think of this as a surgery designed to remove the tumor and thereby save the patient.”

If Gallagher’s bill is passed, TikTok would have six months to divest itself from ByteDance or risk being banned in the United States.

“This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement sent to the Washington Examiner. “This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a co-sponsor of rival legislation for restricting TikTok, told the Washington Post that he has concerns about the “constitutionality” of legislation that “names specific companies.” Gallagher noted that while the bill does call out ByteDance due to its relationship with the CCP, the legislation creates a “framework” tied to “foreign adversary control” for dealing with more companies than just TikTok, an approach he said is meant to avoid the constitutionality concerns.

The bill has gained significant traction in the last 24 hours, with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) announcing consecutive hearings and markups on the bill, alongside legislation restricting Chinese access to U.S. data, for Thursday.

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The White House also appears supportive of Gallagher’s legislation. “We appreciate the work of Reps. Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi and we look forward to working with Congress to further strengthening this legislation to put it on the strongest possible legal footing,” a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement.

Gallagher’s legislation is the latest bill Congress introduced to address TikTok. Some bills would ban TikTok from the U.S. One major bipartisan bill, Warner and Sen. John Thune’s (R-SD) RESTRICT Act, would give federal agencies the power to “identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, or otherwise mitigate” any transactions made with companies based in “foreign nations of concern.”

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