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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, his new bipartisan bill that would establish a risk-based process to identify and mitigate foreign-adversary threats to American information and communications technology. Thune noted that it’s time to update our laws to ensure that we are able to confront the national security threats posed by foreign-adversary technology, such as TikTok.
Thune today penned an op-ed with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in FoxNews.com about the RESTRICT Act.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, there’s been a lot of talk about TikTok in the halls of Congress lately, and with good reason.
“Because it’s become increasingly clear that TikTok poses serious national security concerns.
“TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, are Chinese-owned entities with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
“And after a Chinese spy balloon floated over our country a few weeks ago, I think it’s obvious to everyone that the Chinese Communist Party is hostile to the interests of the United States – and spies on American citizens.
“And I can think of few better or easier ways to spy on American citizens or manipulate American public opinion than to make use of a popular app that is used by over 100 million Americans.
“In the United States, of course, we have the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to protect the data Americans provide to apps from being seized by the government.
“But the Chinese Communist Party has no such restraints.
“In fact, Chinese law requires social media and technology companies to provide information – including individually identifiable personal information – to the Chinese government when asked.
“So there is no legal framework in China to effectively protect TikTok users – or users of any China-based app – from having their personal information turned over to the Chinese Communist Party.
“And there are already concerning signs that TikTok users’ personal information is not secure.
“It was reported last year that China-based employees of ByteDance had repeatedly accessed private data from TikTok users in the U.S., despite TikTok’s claim to the contrary.
“And in December 2022, it was found that ByteDance employees inside China used the app to obtain the locations of journalists who worked on stories highlighting TikTok’s national security risks.
“This obviously has implications for Americans’ personal security and privacy.
“And it raises troubling questions about how the Chinese Communist Party could use TikTok for its own ends, whether that’s using personal data to develop sources for espionage or manipulating content to advance the Communist Party’s agenda.
“Mr. President, TikTok is not the first time technology from a hostile nation has posed a serious security concern.
“Before there was TikTok, we had to engage in a protracted effort to remove technology from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from our telecommunications networks – after U.S. security officials raised concerns that much of Huawei’s and ZTE’s equipment was built with ‘backdoors’ giving the Chinese Communist Party access to global communications networks.
“The digital age has come with enormous benefits, but it also comes with substantial new threats – not least the threat of a hostile foreign government exploiting communications technology for nefarious purposes.
“And that threat increases substantially when we’re talking about technology – from hardware to social media apps – produced by companies in hostile nations and affiliated with hostile governments.
“In recent years, a number of foreign companies in the information and communications technology space – many of them subject to the control of hostile governments – have gained significant market share.
“Current law provides some remedies for confronting the dangers these companies present.
“For example, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, can block attempted investments from foreign companies if these investments are determined to present a national security risk.
“But the authorities the federal government currently has were fashioned in a pre-digital age, and therefore not designed for the specific threats posed by digital technology controlled by foreign-adversary nations.
“And as a result the federal government is limited in what it can do in situations like the one we currently face with TikTok.
“What is needed is a comprehensive framework for responding to national security risks posed by foreign-adversary-owned digital technology – whether that’s TikTok, or some other app, or mobile phone technology, or internet hardware.
“While CFIUS has the ability to address some risks, the reality is that the mere presence of a technology from a foreign adversary in the United States does not trigger CFIUS review.
“For a tech platform that does not acquire, merge with, or invest in a U.S. company, CFIUS review does not apply.
“So, for example, WeChat, the other Chinese-controlled app that President Trump sought to ban back in 2020, is apparently not subject to CFIUS review.
“Legislation is necessary to fill this important gap in authority.
“That’s why earlier this month Democrat Senator Mark Warner – chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – and I introduced the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or the RESTRICT Act – which now has the support of 18 senators from both parties.
“Our legislation would create a comprehensive process – based at the U.S. Department of Commerce – for identifying and mitigating foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services.
“I want to emphasize that the authorities of the RESTRICT Act only apply to six foreign-adversary countries: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba.
“Under our bill, the Department of Commerce would review any information and communications technology product from these countries that is deemed to present a possible security threat, with an emphasis on products used in critical telecommunications infrastructure or with serious national security implications.
“And the secretary of commerce would be required to develop a range of measures to mitigate the danger posed by these products, up to and including a complete ban on the product in question.
“The bill would also ensure transparency by requiring the commerce secretary to coordinate with the director of national intelligence to provide declassified information on why any measures taken against foreign-adversary-owned technology products were necessary.
“Importantly, the RESTRICT Act also requires the secretary of commerce to act within 180 days after initiating a review.
“A common complaint about the ongoing CFIUS review of TikTok is that it has been open-ended and taken years to complete.
“By comparison, the RESTRICT Act requires quick action to take the necessary steps to mitigate an undue risk from technology of a foreign-adversary nation.
“Mr. President, there is bipartisan acknowledgment that TikTok poses a national security risk.
“And the RESTRICT Act provides a framework for confronting both current and future risks.
“I’m grateful to both Republican and Democrat colleagues for joining Senator Warner and me to introduce this bill.
“It’s time to update our laws to ensure that we are able to confront the national security threats posed by foreign-adversary technology.
“And I look forward to working with colleagues from both parties, in both chambers, to advance the RESTRICT Act and get it to the president’s desk.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”