Escalation against popular Chinese app sees three US lawmakers seek to ban TikTok from operating in the United States
Three US lawmakers have reportedly this week stepped up the pressure on ByteDance’s hugely popular video-sharing app, TikTok.
The three US lawmakers, namely Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, and at least one unnamed Democrat congressmen, have apparently introduced the bipartisan legislation that aims to ban TikTok from operating in the United States.
The bill, which seems unlikely to succeed, comes as TikTok faces bans from a growing number of (most Republican) US states, that are banning the Chinese app from their respective state devices, networks and computers.
CNN reported that the proposed legislation led by Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, would “block and prohibit all transactions” in the United States by social media companies with at least one million monthly users that are based in, or under the “substantial influence” of, countries that are considered foreign adversaries, including China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.
The bill specifically names TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, as social media companies for the purposes of the legislation.
“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” Rubio said in a statement. “There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.”
TikTok has previously insisted it has never provided user data to the Chinese government, and its user data is stored in the US and Singapore – moving to Ireland in 2023 when its new data centre opens.
But TikTok has also previously acknowledged that employees based in China can currently access user data.
In October TikTok denied a media report that it had ‘targetted’ US citizens, and insisted it did not collect precise GPS location data.
US lawmakers are worried about TikTok, as China-based firms are legally obliged under the Chinese ‘2017 Intelligence Security law’ to hand over data to Beijing if requested.
And Tuesday’s bill is not the only federal legislation to target TikTok, CNN noted.
Last year, US lawmakers proposed a law that would ban TikTok usage by federal agencies, and Senator Rubio introduced a bill that would force some app makers to disclose ownership information.
Another bill introduced in the Autumn would prohibit TikTok from allowing China-based employees to access the user data of US citizens.
Last month FBI Director Chris Wray, according to the Associated Press, warned that control of the popular video sharing app is in the hands of a Chinese government “that doesn’t share our values.”
The Chinese firm has however responded to this latest US bill by certain US lawmakers.
“It’s troubling that rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States,” Hilary McQuaide, a spokesperson for TikTok, said in a statement.
“We will continue to brief members of Congress on the plans that have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies – plans that we are well underway in implementing – to further secure our platform in the United States,” TikTok’s McQuaide added.
Beijing-based ByteDance is already dealing with Taiwan earlier this month opting to ban TikTok and other Chinese software from government devices and platforms.
The US state of Texas and South Dakota have also banned TikTok from government-owned devices – citing threats to user data.
The US state of Maryland followed suite soon after.
South Carolina Republican Govenor Henry McMaster has also asked the state’s Department of Administration to ban TikTok from all state government devices.
TikTok has been banned on Nebraska state electronic devices since August 2020, and then this week Alabama and Utah joined those other US states prohibiting the use of TikTok on state government devices and computer networks.
The US armed forces have prohibited the app on military devices, and the US State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have also restricted TikTok from devices under their control.
In June 2021, President Joe Biden overturned Trump’s executive orders that sought to ban TikTok downloads, and directed the Commerce Department to conduct a review of security concerns posed by the app.