ACLU Raises Concerns About Senate Bill Aimed at Banning TikTok

March 7, 2023 9:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — Several senators introduced a sweeping bill on Tuesday that sets the stage for the government to ban TikTok for people across the US. Under the proposal, the Secretary of Commerce would be granted new authority to prohibit people from using apps and products from companies “subject to the jurisdiction of China” and other “foreign adversaries.” This legislation comes on the heels of another bill aimed at banning TikTok that passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. The ACLU condemned the bill, called the DATA Act, due to First Amendment concerns.

“Unfortunately, the Senate bill is a roundabout route to the same bad place reached more directly by the House bill,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at ACLU. “The Senate bill would ultimately allow the Commerce Secretary to ban entire communications platforms, which would have profound implications for our constitutional right to free speech. If the Secretary uses this newfound power to ban TikTok or other communications platforms without evidence of overwhelming, imminent harm, it would violate our right to freedom of expression.”

The bill, known as the RESTRICT Act, would significantly expand the Executive Branch’s power to control what apps and technologies Americans can access, while limiting Americans’ ability to challenge those actions in court. It would also impose civil and criminal penalties for violating bans imposed pursuant to the legislation, which could be used against people attempting to evade a TikTok ban.

As the ACLU noted when former President Trump tried to ban TikTok nationally in 2020, selective bans of entire platforms could cut off the flow of information, art, and communication that social media provides, interfering with communities and connections users in the United States have with each other and with people around the world. This interference with freedom of expression and association violates the First Amendment.”

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