A group of bipartisan lawmakers led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would completely ban the social media app TikTok from operating in the United States.
"TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is required by Chinese law to make the app’s data available to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)," reads a Tuesday statement from Rubio's office. "From the FBI Director to FCC Commissioners to cybersecurity experts, everyone has made clear the risk of TikTok being used to spy on Americans. "
Rubio - who introduced the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) - is joined by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who introduced companion legislation in the US House of Representatives.
"TikTok is digital fentanyl that’s addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news," said Gallagher. "It’s also an increasingly powerful media company that’s owned by ByteDance, which ultimately reports to the Chinese Communist Party – America’s foremost adversary."
Allowing the app to continue to operate in the U.S. would be like allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War. No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen, which is why it’s time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it’s too late. -Rep. Mike Gallagher.
The app has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, including a lawsuit from the state of Indiana, a ban in South Dakota, calls to ban TikTok 'everywhere,' and hitting a major snag in negotiations with the Biden administration over national security concerns.
One of the primary issues with TikTok - owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is where user data is housed.
Both ByteDance and US officials struck a preliminary agreement that TikTok data on US users would be hosted by Oracle Corp. TikTok, meanwhile, says it will delete the private data of US users from its own data centers in Virginia and Singapore as it transitions to fully store data with Oracle. The company has also said that access to US data by anyone outside of a newly established division to govern US data security would be limited by, and subject to, its protocols - which would be overseen by Oracle.
Certain administration officials, however, still aren't comfortable with the arrangement, and have sought to make any TikTok security agreement stronger in some respects over concerns with the company's access to consumer data, and its potential use for influence operations.
"The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok. This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day," said Rubio on Tuesday. "We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China. 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."
Republicans have been pushing to ban the app altogether.
TikTok claims it doesn't collect data on search and browsing history outside the app, though it does collect information within the app so that it 'functions correctly,' said the spokeswoman. For example, returning relevant search results and ensuring users don't see the same videos multiple times.
Former US President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok unless it was a US-owned entity - which President Biden rescinded shortly after taking office in light of legal challenges.