The Debate Around a Bill to Ban TikTok, Explained

Sens. Mark Warner and John Thune introduce the Restrict Act at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The growing consensus in Washington, D.C., is that the social media company TikTok—a subsidiary of the Chinese company ByteDance—is a national security threat. The app’s collection of American users’ data, its obligation under Chinese law to provide that data to the Chinese Communist Party, and its ability to disseminate CCP propaganda and suppress anti-CCP dissent through its algorithm are all widely cited concerns.

What’s dividing most political leaders now is what to do about TikTok. Seeking to avoid a repeat of the Trump administration’s ill-fated 2020 attempt at a ban of the app, the Biden administration wants Congress to act.

A plethora of bills to address the issue have been introduced, and more drafts may be en route. But one in particular has bipartisan support and an endorsement by the White House: the RESTRICT Act, introduced by Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune earlier this month. It now boasts 25 cosponsors in the Senate.

If TikTok were truly banned, it would eventually be removed from U.S. mobile app stores. In theory, some committed users might still be able to access it by way of virtual personal networks (VPNs), but even then, Apple and Google’s digital rights management (DRM) software could still block the app from running. Proponents of the RESTRICT Act, including Warner, have expressed confidence that content creators reliant on TikTok could migrate to other sites if the app disappeared.

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