Illustration shows TikTok app logo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is increasingly pressured to follow the EU and US in the recent TikTok ban Reuters

Social media content creators in the US might soon witness what could possibly be the most extensive restriction on any social media app in America.

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted along party lines on a bill known as the Deterring America's Technological Adversaries (DATA) Act that will grant President Joe Biden the authority to ban the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok.

By a vote of 24 to 16, the US lawmakers approved the legislation giving the administration new powers to ban the ByteDance-owned TikTok, which an estimated 100 million Americans use, and other applications deemed security risks.

"TikTok is a national security threat ... It is time to act," Representative Michael McCaul explained. The lawmaker is the Republican chair of the committee who sponsored the bill.

McCaul even associated the app with an online version of the controversial spy balloon. "Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP (Communist Party of China) a backdoor to all their personal information. It's a spy balloon into their phone," he added.

This week, the White House ordered all federal agencies to remove TikTok from all government devices within 30 days, according to NBC News. The Office of Management and Budget hails the guidance released on Monday as a "critical step forward in addressing the risks presented by the app to sensitive government data.

A few agencies, such as the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, already have restrictions against TikTok. The rest of the federal government will need to develop its own methods within 30 days.

"The Biden-Harris Administration has invested heavily in defending our nation's digital infrastructure and curbing foreign adversaries' access to Americans' data," said the federal chief information security officer Chris DeRusha.

"This guidance is part of the Administration's ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people's security and privacy."

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an influential national security body, recommended in 2020 that ByteDance divest TikTok to calm down fears that user data could be passed on to China's government.

CFIUS and TikTok have been negotiating for over two years, covering various data security requirements. In fact, TikTok revealed that it spent more than $1.5 billion to enhance data security and denies spying allegations.

"A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion people who use our service worldwide," commented a TikTok spokesperson after the vote.

Democrats opposed the bill and argued that it was rushed and lacked due diligence through debate and consultation with experts. It was pointed out that the bill does not specify how the ban will work.

At the moment, the Biden administration did not make any indication of whether or not it was in favour of moving ahead with the bill or not. The bill is expected to be later voted on by the House this month.

Meanwhile, Canada announced on Monday that it is also banning TikTok from government-issued mobile devices. The European Union's executive branch has already imposed a temporary ban on TikTok from phones used by employees.

The same ban could also happen in the U.K. According to the Guardian, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is increasingly under pressure to follow the EU and US.

"We've now seen both the EU and the US take decisive action on TikTok over security concerns: the acquisition of our personal data by a hostile state. We run the risk of becoming a tech security laggard amongst free and open nations," stated Alicia Kearns, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee.

"Even when their western security operatives show that TikTok poses a security risk to us in the UK, we seem to drag our feet, trying not to take action that might upset China," said Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham.

"The prime minister has an opportunity to take control of China policy and it's a critical time to do so. I hope the government owns up to the danger China poses and takes action immediately on TikTok."