RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia House committee recommended that the state ban TikTok and WeChat, two popular social media platforms with links to the Chinese government, on all state-owned devices and Wi-Fi networks.
Brewer’s proposal goes further than Youngkin’s order with a provision that forbids state agencies from purchasing any goods or services from “any company owned or operated by the government of China,” unless they’ve been specifically cleared by a federal committee that oversees foreign investment in the United States.
Governor Glenn Youngkin’s order only applied to WeChat and TikTok, but the additions wouldn’t even apply to those apps.
That’s because while the Chinese government is an investor in Bytedance and Tencent — the apps’ parent companies — it only holds a minority stake, with ownership of both companies split between a slate of international investors, include some American companies.
As a result, the legislation also specifically singles out Tencent and Bytedance, explicitly forbidding their apps to be used on state-owned devices and networks.
Delegate Dan Helmer (D – Fairfax) questioned why the legislation was targeted specifically at Chinese company, but excluded other geopolitical opponents such as Russia and Iran.
“I wondered why this bill solely seeks to call out one particular set of actors,” he said.
Helmer went on to suggest that the proposal might be rooted in anti-Asian sentiment.
Brewer rejected that suggestion, saying that the proposal was based on security concerns specific to China. Still, she said they could explore expanding the legislation in the future.
“There may be additional other companies at some point that we also look at,” she said.
Delegate Marcus Simon (D – Fairfax) also criticized the proposal, saying that because the bills single out specific companies by name, any name change the company makes over the next year would require them to re-write the whole thing.
“I understand the desire to score some political points and join this ‘red menace’ thing, but it’s really bad policy to put in the code,” he said.
After rejecting a proposal to pass the bill by for the day, the committee narrowly recommended the bill move forward, sending it to the full house for final approval.