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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – Rare bipartisan consensus appears to be forming in favor of banning the China-linked social media platform TikTok, but controversy surrounding a newly unveiled proposal to do just that suggests a less unifying reason why: because the issue could be used to give the federal government powers that go much further.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which in turn has links to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its military and surveillance operations, prompting ongoing national-security concerns over the Chinese government’s access to the personal data of TikTok’s American users.

The issue was the subject of congressional hearings last week, during which CEO Shou Zi Chew faced harsh questioning from Republicans and Democrats alike. President Joe Biden has endorsed prohibiting the platform in the United States unless ByteDance sells it to a U.S. owner.

The furor has renewed focus on legislation introduced by Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, called the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act. It would empower the federal government to review and ban transactions between Americans and foreign nationals regarding information or communications technologies that are deemed to have national security risks.

Just as TikTok itself has made strange political bedfellows, so too has the bill to ban it.

“This bill would give enormous and terrifying new powers to the federal government to punish American citizens and regulate how they communicate with one another,” said Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson. “Transactions with foreign adversaries would include ‘any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in or use of any information and communications technology, product or service, including ongoing activities such as mandated services, data transmission, software updates, repairs, or the provision of data hosting services.” Well, that’s pretty broad.”

“This is not an effort to push back against China,” he argued. “It’s part of a strategy to make America much more like China, with the government in charge of what you read and see and with terrifying punitive powers at their fingertips.”

“As written, the broad language in the RESTRICT Act could criminalize the use of a VPN [virtual private network], significantly impacting access to security tools and other applications that vulnerable people rely on for privacy and security,” tech policy analyst Willmary Escoto told the left-leaning Vice. “Many individuals and organizations, including journalists, activists, and human rights defenders, use VPNs to protect their online activity from surveillance and censorship. The RESTRICT Act would expose these groups to monitoring and repression, which could have a chilling effect on free speech and expression.”

In a statement to Newsweek, Warner spokeswoman Rachel Cohen responded that the bill would only apply to “companies like Kaspersky, Huawei and TikTok that create systemic risks to the United States’ national security, not individual users,” who “must be engaged in ‘sabotage or subversion’ of communications technology in the U.S., causing ‘catastrophic effects’ on U.S. critical infrastructure, or ‘interfering in, or altering the result’ of a federal election in order for criminal penalties to apply.”

Libertarian Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and far-left Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota are among those who have more generally spoken out against banning TikTok.

Other measures proposed on the subject include Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul’s Deterring America’s Technology Adversaries (DATA) Act, which would empower the President of the United States the power to block transactions relating to importing or exporting “sensitive data” when national security is implicated, and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s No TikTok on Government Devices Act, which would ban accessing the platform on devices owned by federal agencies.