GOP Senators Demand TikTok Ban

Republican lawmakers are renewing efforts to ban China-based social media platform TikTok in the U.S. amid continuing concerns that the app can be used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to track, surveil, and influence Americans.

In a Thursday op-ed in the Washington Post, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) lay out the ways the CCP controls TikTok and has access to the data it sweeps up from its one billion global users. More than two-thirds of American teenagers use the app on their phones.

TikTok is now the most downloaded app in the U.S. on Apple’s App Store and on Google Play.

The senators wrote that even though TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is not outright owned by the Chinese government, “in China, no company is truly private.” Under Chinese law, every company is required to share digital information with the CCP-controlled government.

They note that a Forbes report indicates that 23 of the directors of ByteDance have previously worked directly for “CCP propaganda outlets.” ByteDance’s editor-in-chief also “happens to be the secretary of its internal CCP committee.”

TikTok refused to tell Forbes if the company had targeted government officials, activists, journalists, or public figures inside the U.S.

TikTok has been shown previously to censor references on its platform to the genocide of ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims in China and the popular 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square.

Rubio and Gallagher warn that TikTok has many default features that allow it to gather user data that include constant location detection and every keystroke a user enters on their device. The app is able to conduct that level of surveillance even when users are using unrelated apps or visiting separate websites.

They say that the app allows the CCP to “collect sensitive national security information from U.S. government employees and develop profiles on millions of Americans to use for blackmail or espionage.”

The op-ed also warns that TikTok’s algorithm is a dangerous tool that could be used for indoctrination. The company refuses to provide any information about how the algorithm is coded or updated.

While the company says that it merely analyzes user activities to promote content “with a high chance of going viral,” the senators say that it can be “used to subtly indoctrinate American citizens.”

The two GOP senators said they plan to soon introduce new federal legislation that will ban TikTok and similar CCP-affiliated platforms in the U.S.