Dems, Repubs Eye Up Ban On Chat Apps They Don’t Like

On Tuesday a bipartisan group of a dozen US senators introduced a bill to authorize the Commerce Department to ban information and communications technology products and services deemed threats to national security.

The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act [PDF] makes absolutely no bones about its aspirations. It comes a week after the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance a similar bill called the DATA Act [PDF] – for Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries.

Say what you will about US Congress, it has a gift for acronyms.

We’re SURPRISED, or Slightly Underwhelmed Regarding Possible Regulatory Intervention Sold as Exigent Defense. Similar efforts in the past have been blocked by the courts as overbroad and insufficiently substantiated.

The RESTRICT Act is a response to concerns that foreign-owned apps – particularly those run by Chinese firms, like ByteDance’s TikTok, Tencent’s WeChat, and Alibaba’s Alipay – could be used for surveillance or subversion.

“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 US,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), one of the sponsors of the bill, in a statement.

“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.

“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles

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