26th March 2023 – (Washington) U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced that lawmakers will push ahead with legislation to address national security concerns surrounding TikTok, the popular short video app owned by China-based company ByteDance. McCarthy alleges that the Chinese government has access to the app’s user data, prompting growing calls for a ban or legal authority to seek a ban by President Joe Biden’s administration. Recently, devices owned by the U.S. government were banned from having the app installed.
In a five-hour hearing before a U.S. House Committee last Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by lawmakers from both parties about national security and other concerns involving the app, which has 150 million American users. Chew denied allegations that the app has spied on Americans at Beijing’s request. However, Republican Representative Neal Dunn referenced the company’s December disclosure that some China-based employees at ByteDance improperly accessed TikTok user data of two journalists and were no longer employed by the company. He repeated his question about whether ByteDance was spying. Chew said that spying was not the right way to describe it and described the reports as involving an “internal investigation” before being cut off.
Despite TikTok’s $1.5 billion investment in data security under “Project Texas” and its current contract with Oracle Corp to store TikTok’s U.S. user data, McCarthy says that it’s concerning that the CEO of TikTok cannot be honest and admit what is already known to be true – China has access to TikTok user data. In fact, Chew’s appearance before Congress has increased the likelihood that Congress will take action, according to Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump lost a series of court rulings in 2020 when he sought to ban TikTok and another Chinese-owned app, WeChat, a unit of Tencent. Many Democrats have raised concerns about TikTok’s Chinese ties but have yet to explicitly back a U.S. ban.
In response to growing concerns over TikTok’s Chinese ties, lawmakers will move forward with legislation to protect Americans from the “technological tentacles” of the Chinese Communist Party. The U.S. government has already banned TikTok from being installed on its devices, and there are calls for a wider ban or legal authority to seek a ban. The app’s CEO denied spying allegations during a recent five-hour hearing before Congress, but lawmakers remain concerned about China’s access to user data. Despite TikTok’s efforts to improve data security, the company’s Chinese ties continue to raise concerns among U.S. lawmakers.