- Natalie Sherman
- BBC Business Correspondent from New York
Members of the US Congress have proposed banning TikTok (the English version of Douyin) on the grounds that they are concerned about threats to national security. This is a social media app known for its popular short videos.
The bipartisan bill is the latest US move against the company owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance.
Last month, the FBI director became concerned that China might use the app to influence users or control their electronic devices. Several US states have banned the use of TikTok on government devices.
But the chances of the bill passing are slim.
TikTok, which has more than 100 million users in the United States, called the move a “politically motivated ban that does nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”
The company also said it was working on plans to further secure the platform in the United States. The United States began reviewing national security under former President Donald Trump.
“We will continue to update members of Congress on these plans,” the company said.
Political attacks on TikTok are a sign of strained relations between the United States and China, said Caitlin Chen, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
But she said a nationwide ban on TikTok was unlikely anytime soon, and that while changes to US data privacy and content moderation rules are widely believed to be necessary, lawmakers’ progress has been slow.
It also said that until now, concerns about TikTok and China have been based largely on potential data misuse rather than evidence of misuse.
“From a privacy standpoint, simply blocking companies like TikTok from operating wouldn’t close the gap,” she said, noting that many other sites collect similar information.
There have also been calls to ban TikTok in countries like Australia, and Taiwan recently moved to ban TikTok streams on public devices. India banned TikTok amid a military conflict in 2020.
In the US, TikTok faced a de facto ban two years ago after Trump issued an executive order banning downloads, but a judge blocked the measure so it would never go into effect.
Ultimately, President Biden rescinded the ban.
In 2020, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is responsible for reviewing the ownership of foreign companies in the United States, ordered ByteDance to sell TikTok.
The company’s talks with the agency are ongoing.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio is a supporter of the bill. He said the bill has at least one Democratic support.
He said his bill would block all transactions by social media companies from China, Russia and “other relevant foreign countries”.
“It’s not about creative videos, it’s about an app that collects data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day,” he said.
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