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White House ‘very in favor’ of bill to ban or force sale of TikTok, says Sen. Mark Warner

The White House strongly supports the Senate bill that could give the Commerce Department the authority to ​either ban TikTok or force its sale, a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation said Sunday.

“I think the White House is very in favor of this bill,” said Sen. Mark Warner ​(D-Va.) ​on CBS​ News​’​ “Face The Nation.” “We give the secretary of Commerce the tools to ban, to force a sale, other tools.”

​Warner, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced the bipartisan bill with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) ​that would enable the federal government to “ban or prohibit” foreign technology such as the China-owned TikTok over concerns that such online platforms can be used to garner intelligence or spread propaganda. 

​Warner said the proposed RESTRICT Act — which targets technology connected to foreign governments that pose a threat to national security but does not single out TikTok — has the support of 22 senators, with a breakdown of 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans. ​

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, says the White House is “very in favor” of a bill that would give the Commerce Department the authorization to either ban TikTok or force its sale.
CBS News/Face The Nation

The legislation would pertain to technology from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba​  

TikTok, with 150 million users in the US, is owned by Chinese-based ByteDance.

While the White House came out earlier this month in support of the RESTRICT Act, Warner did not say whether the administration plans to ban TikTok or force its sale. 

He only said he has had conversations with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo about the app. 

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is grilled by lawmakers during a House Energy and Commerce Committee last Thursday.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is grilled by lawmakers during a House Energy and Commerce Committee session on Thursday.

He said he believes Raimondo will see TikTok as a threat, even though she has voiced concerns that banning the video platform would alienate American voters under 35.

​Warner said the end result could be a sale of the wildly popular but controversial app. ​

“And that forced sale also makes sure that the core algorithm, the source code, resides someplace different than China, that could be an outcome that would be successful as well,” he said. 

In a separate interview on “Face the Nation,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the act would give President Biden “additional tools and authorities” to regulate TikTok.

“There’s an ongoing, as you know, review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States” examining TikTok’s potential security risks, he said.

Sen. Mark Warner being interviewed by CBS' Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation."
Sen. Mark Warner is interviewed by CBS’ Margaret Brennan on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.”
CBS News/Face The Nation

“But look, in the meantime, the president’s already said we absolutely have national security concerns about that application, and he’s banned it from government devices,” Kirby added. “We have endorsed the RESTRICT Act, pending legislation, we’d love to see that passed by the Congress so that the president can have additional tools and authorities.”

O​fficials on the Committee on Foreign Investment reportedly have contacted Chinese officials to alert them that the US plans to ban TikTok unless its China-based owners sell their shares. ​

Despite a blistering hearing last week in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew was grilled by Democratic and Republican lawmakers, some progressives still believe the federal government should keep their hands off the app. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday argued against banning TikTok in a posting on the platform.

“The United States has never before banned a social-media company from existence, from operating in our borders, and this is an app that has over 150 million Americans on it,” ​said the lefty pol, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens. 

Her progressive colleague, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who last week called efforts to ban TikTok “racist,” on Sunday likened efforts to prohibit the app to putting a “Band-Aid on maybe a small scab.

“We need to take a step back​,” he said on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” Sunday.

“And if we really want to really analyze social media, the harms th​at happen on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, I can argue, are far worse than what TikTok has presented,” Bowman said.  

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