US politicians propose TikTok ban over China security concerns

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio – JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters

US lawmakers have proposed a ban on Chinese-owned TikTok over national security concerns. 

A trio of senior US senators introduced the draft law, dubbed the “Anti-Social CCP Act”. The bill would “block and prohibit transactions” with social media companies with more than one million users under the “substantial influence” of rival powers, including China, Russia and North Korea.

The bill also explicitly names TikTok, the viral video sharing app, and its parent company, China’s Bytedance, as an app that would fall under the new blacklist. It comes after an executive order to force Bytedance to sell the app under former US President Donald Trump was unwound by President Joe Biden.

The bill has been introduced by the senior Republican Florida senator Marco Rubio, and two other bipartisan senators. Despite concerns on both sides of the House of Congress and the Senate over the influence of TikTok, the bill will face steep odds to get passed with both houses controlled by the Democrats.

TikTok has more than 100 million users in the US. There are fears among US politicians that the app could allow sensitive data to be accessed from Beijing, under China’s national security laws, and over social media addiction. TikTok has admitted that some staff in China can access some user information from the US and Europe.

The White House is undertaking a national security review of TikTok and could reach a deal that would allow the app to continue operating under certain restrictions, such as ensuring US data is kept segregated.

However, US security officials have raised fresh concerns over the app. FBI director Chris Wray told politicians this week the Chinese Communist Party could use the app to drive influence operations across the world.

He said the risks include “the possibility that the Chinese government could use [TikTok] to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations”.

A TikTok spokesman said: “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.”

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