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EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are set to roll out a measure that would block Big Tech companies from hosting senior Chinese Communist Party officials on their social media platforms.
House Republican Study Committee member Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., is leading the initiative, along with committee Chairman Jim Banks, R-Ind., committee National Security and Foreign Affairs Chairman Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and co-sponsor Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., in an effort to “hold China and Big Tech accountable.”
The “China Social Media Reciprocity Act” would impose sanctions prohibiting providers of social media platforms to provide accounts to any individuals involved in the Chinese Communist Party, unless the president can certify to Congress that the government of China and the CCP have “verifiably removed prohibitions on officials of the U.S. government from accessing, using, or participating in social media platforms in China.”
The bill would “prohibit the provision of services by social media platforms to individuals and entities on the Specially Designated Nations List and certain officials and other individuals and entities of the People’s Republic of China.”
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The bill covers all U.S.-owned social media companies.
Rep. Brian Mast speaks at a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Sept. 20, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
In order to gain access to U.S. social media platforms and accounts, the bill would require the Chinese government to remove all forms of censorship that prohibit persons in China from accessing social media platforms or viewing content generated by U.S. government officials and U.S. persons on China’s social media platforms, a committee aide told Fox News.
The president’s ability to waive the bill would sunset in two years, according to the committee, and would give Congress “the final say on whether or not China has met the standard requirement to lift prohibition.”
The bill would apply to members of China’s State Council, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Defense, State Security, Justice, Public Security, and other ministries; as well as high ranking officials of other agencies.
“Freedom always wins over tyranny, and the Chinese Communist Party knows it. That’s why they’ve taken drastic steps to keep American ideas off of their social platforms,” Mast told Fox News. “This bill is about leveling the playing field.”
Mast added: “Chinese officials should not be allowed to spew propaganda on U.S.-based social media sites while actively blocking the free flow of ideas on their own sites.”
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A committee aide told Fox News that Chinese government officials, and senior leaders of the CCP “have full freedom tase American social media platforms to further their propaganda,” while those same social media platforms are “often banned in China.”
“China bans its own citizens from using Twitter and Facebook, but Chinese Communist Party officials still use those platforms to push their propaganda abroad,” Banks told Fox News, adding that Big Tech “has enthusiastically censored conservative politicians in America, but refused to lift a finger against Communist Party officials who’ve spread actual COVID disinformation and even genocide denial on their platforms.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Jim Banks hold a press conference on Capitol Hill, June 9, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
“There’s a staggering amount of hypocrisy from all involved,” Banks told Fox News. “The Republican Study Committee and my colleague Brian Mast’s bill would force Big Tech to counter China’s disinformation and put the US back on an equal footing by using sanctions law to prohibit all Communist officials from US social media until they lift their ban on US social media.”
Tiffany, an original co-sponsor of the legislation, told Fox News that Big Tech companies have been a propaganda machine for the Chinese Communist Party and even the Taliban – yet these same platforms routinely censor American conservatives, and even the investigative journalism of major newspapers.”
“Something is very wrong with this picture,” Tiffany said. “If a foreign despot refuses to allow free and unfettered access to American social media platforms, then that dictator and his cronies should be deplatformed, period.”
The legislation comes after Republicans on the panel last year proposed legislation that would expand U.S. sanctions law to prohibit social media companies from allowing foreign individuals or entities sanctioned for terrorism from using their platforms.
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That bill, the “No Social Media Accounts for Terrorists or State Sponsors of Terrorism Act of 2021,” first reported by Fox News, would clarify existing sanctions law by giving the president authority to sanction the “provision of services,” including the provision and maintenance of accounts, by social media platforms to foreign individuals or entities sanctioned for terrorism, and senior officials of state sponsors of terrorism.
Icons of WhatsApp, Messenger, YouTube, Instagram and other apps. (Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, File)
The social media platforms also included Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
A congressional aide explained to Fox News that banks and U.S. insurance companies are not allowed to provide accounts to sanctioned individuals or entities, but due to the current loophole in sanctions law, social media companies are allowed to provide the accounts because it is related to information.
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The aide said the legislation seeks to “require the president to implement regulation that will treat social media platforms just like the bank and insurance companies—they cannot provide a service to a sanctioned individual or entity.”
An aide told Fox News that bill received 47 co-sponsors, but has not yet been brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for consideration.
Brooke Singman is a Fox News Digital politics reporter. You can reach her at [email protected] or @BrookeSingman on Twitter.