The Biden administration is threatening TikTok with a nationwide ban.
The government is citing national security concerns with the social media app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
The app is already banned on federal government-issued mobile devices, and more than half of U.S. states have banned the app on state-issued devices as well.
A nationwide TikTok ban has gained bipartisan traction in Congress, given the perceived national security concerns while tensions with the Chinese government are high.
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“TikTok is a modern-day Trojan horse of the [Chinese Communist Party], used to surveil and exploit Americans’ personal information,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in February.
On other side of the aisle, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) told the CEOs of Apple and Google that “unlike most social media platforms, TikTok poses a unique concern because Chinese law obligates ByteDance, its Beijing-based parent company, to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.'”
TikTok does track users’ personal information, such as phone numbers, contacts, email addresses and WiFi networks.
TikTok is not unique in this – U.S. platforms participate in similar data mining schemes.
A TikTok spokesperson disputed the notion that TikTok under the ownership of ByteDance was a national security threat to Americans.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” it said in a statement. “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”
On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is expected to face contentious questioning over TikTok’s data-mining policies.
A Trump-era executive order banned TikTok and WeChat downloads from the app stores in 2020. The Biden administration reversed course in 2021, ending the 2020 ban and saying that it plans to create a “clear intelligible criteria” to decide if different software downloads pose a threat to U.S. national security. In recent months, the Biden Administration has taken a far harder line on TikTok.
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