Khanna Explains Opposition to TikTok Bill While Senators Signal Openness

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The California Democrat Ro Khanna pointed to the need for a federal data privacy law, and a Democrat and a Republican in the Senate suggested sympathy for the calls to ban the app.

Representative Ro Khanna laid out his case against a sweeping ban of the social media platform TikTok on Sunday after opposing legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House last week, while two senators expressed their openness to the bill.

“What is the actual evidence that you couldn’t pass a data privacy law or law banning data going to a foreign country, and get that done that way?” Mr. Khanna, a progressive Democrat from California, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The frustration is that we have not been able to pass these data privacy laws. Those laws would also cover data brokers which are selling data to Chinese companies. This bill is not actually addressing that issue.”

Fifty Democrats — mostly in the party’s progressive wing — voted against the House bill, citing concerns about violating Americans’ right to free speech and hurting small business owners who rely on TikTok for their marketing and sales. The bill passed the House on Wednesday, 352 to 65.

The legislation mandates that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, sell its U.S. assets within six months after the bill is signed into a law or face an outright ban in the United States. Supporters of the measure worry about the Chinese government gaining access to the data of roughly 150 million U.S. residents who use the video app and influencing the public debate in America by tweaking the app’s algorithms to its favor.

While recognizing the concerns raised by TikTok’s critics, Mr. Khanna said on Sunday that the security threats from the Chinese government could be tackled more effectively with “a narrowly tailored law” that forbids any transfer of private data of Americans to China and other foreign entities.

The United States does not have a federal data privacy law that restricts the sale of personal data, potentially allowing foreign entities to purchase the private information of millions of Americans. Mr. Khanna, whose congressional district includes Silicon Valley, has vowed for years to pass a new law that imposes restrictions on tech companies’ ability to collect and profit from their users’ data.

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