On Tuesday afternoon, the administration of President Joe Biden announced its backing for a bipartisan bill proposed by a group of senators. The proposed legislation would enable the United States to prohibit TikTok and take measures against other foreign adversaries.
A group of 12 bipartisan senators, led by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who is the ranking member of the Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, have introduced the RESTRICT Act. This bill aims to limit the emergence of security threats that pose a risk to information and communications technology.
Under the proposed legislation, the Department of Commerce would be granted the authority to examine, stop, and lessen the potential hazards to the United States' economic and national security caused by information communications and technology (ICT) transactions.
“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S. Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices,” said Warner. “We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan released a statement on behalf of the White House regarding the legislation, expressing the administration's endorsement and eagerness to enact it into law expeditiously.
“This legislation would empower the United States government to prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services operating in the United States in a way that poses risks to Americans’ sensitive data and our national security,” Sullivan said. “This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans. This legislation would provide the U.S. government with new mechanisms to mitigate the national security risks posed by high-risk technology businesses operating in the United States.”
“Critically, it would strengthen our ability to address discrete risks posed by individual transactions, and systemic risks posed by certain classes of transactions involving countries of concern in sensitive technology sectors,” Sullivan added. “This will help us address the threats we face today, and also prevent such risks from arising in the future.”
The summary released by the bipartisan group of senators outlines the objectives of the RESTRICT Act, which include:
- Require the Secretary of Commerce to establish procedures to identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, and mitigate transactions involving information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has any interest and poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security.
- Prioritize evaluation of ICT products used in critical infrastructure, integral to telecommunications products, or pertaining to a range of defined emerging, foundational, and disruptive technologies with serious national security implications.
- Ensure comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign ICT by requiring the Secretary to take up consideration of concerning activity identified by other USG entities.
- Educate the public and business community about the threat by requiring the Secretary of Commerce to coordinate with the Director of National Intelligence to provide declassified information on how transactions denied or otherwise mitigated posed undue or unacceptable risk.
A lot of bipartisan support for Warner's RESTRICT Act that would take aim at foreign-owned companies like TikTok. But I'm still not sure I understand how this would be substantially different than the CFIUS process.
— Daniel Flatley (@DanielPFlatley) March 7, 2023
"CFIUS requires a transaction" to start its process, Warner says. This legislation would enable the government to act absent an acquisition or investment.
— Daniel Flatley (@DanielPFlatley) March 7, 2023
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