With the explosion of the Chinese-owned application TikTok, developed by a top oligarch in the communist Chinese regime, U.S. senators are beginning to ask questions about whether the application, along with other Chinese-developed apps, are counter-intelligence and national security risks.
“Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) have formally asked the Intelligence Community to assess whether TikTok and other China-owned content platforms pose a threat,” according to Engadget.
Schumer is the Democrat in the Senate, and virtually diametrically opposed to Cotton, who is a strong conservative. The fact that there is bipartisan support for such an assessment – in times as polarized as they are now – is a sign that there is significant concern among elected officials that China could be using its entertainment technology as a tool against Americans.
“TikTok’s terms of service and privacy policies describe how it collects data from its users and their devices, including user content and communications, IP address, location-related data, device identifiers, cookies, metadata, and other sensitive personal information. While the company has stated that TikTok does not operate in China and stores U.S. user data in the U.S., ByteDance is still required to adhere to the laws of China,” the letter said.
ByteDance is the parent company of TikTok.
The letter also notes that TikTok has 110 million users in the United States, alleging that it is a “counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” Lawmakers are also concerned that the application could be used to spread disinformation during the 2020 election cycle.
“Security experts have voiced concerns that China’s vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” the letter continued. “Without an independent judiciary to review requests made by the Chinese government for data or other actions, there is no legal mechanism for Chinese companies to appeal if they disagree with a request.”
TikTok has denied any wrongdoing.
“TikTok is committed to being a trusted and responsible corporate citizen in the US, which includes working with Congress and all relevant regulatory agencies,” a spokesperson reportedly told Engadget.
Schumer and Cotton are not the first senators to raise concerns about TikTok. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was afraid that the company might be censoring U.S. users by stopping them from criticizing the Chinese regime, which is currently facing worldwide scrutiny as demonstrators in Hong Kong fight for democracy. He requested that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) look into the matter, which was a positive step, albeit one that could be expanded to look into all censorship of U.S. citizens across all social media platforms.
“To be clear, Rubio is willing to step in and fight TikTok, which may or may not be censoring Americans who criticize the Communist Chinese regime, but when it comes to fighting on behalf of Americans who have been censored for criticizing leftists and left-wing politicians – that is, Americans using their First Amendment rights to criticize the American government – Rubio, much like those Americans for whom he’s failed to fight, has been silent,” we reported at the time.
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