US lawmakers will progress with a bill to tackle national security concerns surrounding TikTok, according to House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The app, which is owned by China-based company ByteDance, has come under increasing scrutiny in the US. There are calls to either ban the app or introduce legislation to enable President Joe Biden’s administration to seek a ban. It has recently been banned from devices owned by the US government.
McCarthy took to Twitter to explain the legislation, stating that it was intended to “protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party”. Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, recently appeared before a US House Committee to discuss security concerns about the app. Representatives from both parties grilled him during the five-hour hearing, but Chew denied allegations that the app had spied on Americans.
However, Republican Representative Neal Dunn drew attention to the company’s disclosure last December that some China-based employees at ByteDance had accessed TikTok user data belonging to two journalists. Chew refuted accusations of spying, instead describing the incident as an “internal investigation”.
Chew’s appearance has not allayed lawmakers’ fears, with Republican Mike Gallagher suggesting that it has actually increased the likelihood of Congress taking action. The company claims to have spent over $1.5bn on data security efforts, with nearly 1,500 full-time employees working on the initiative, known as Project Texas. TikTok also has a contract with Oracle Corp to store its US user data.
Former President Donald Trump had sought to ban TikTok and another Chinese-owned app, WeChat, but was unsuccessful. Despite concerns raised by Democrats, there has been no explicit backing for a US ban.