Bill to ban TikTok in US reflects growing concerns in Congress
Bloomberg February 10, 2023
A group of lawmakers has revived legislation to ban TikTok in the U.S. as doubts grow about the viability of an effort to keep data it collects from falling into the hands of the Chinese government.
Senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, have introduced legislation that would block the popular video-sharing platform because it is controlled by China and there are fears the Beijing government could compel it to share data on U.S. users.
The fate of the legislation - similar to a measure that failed in the last Congress - is unclear as it's likely to draw opposition from the powerful tech lobby and pits lawmakers against millions of mostly young users of the platform. But the proposal reflects an emerging consensus on Capitol Hill that something must be done as questions mount about whether efforts to wall off U.S. data from people in China can succeed.
TikTok's Chief Executive Officer Shou Zi Chew is slated to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23 and is expected to address questions about how the company handles user data, among other concerns.
The Biden administration, through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., has been working on an arrangement that would store U.S. data on servers hosted by Oracle. Lawmakers and experts have raised questions about whether that setup would successfully keep the data from leaking to China. Under Chinese law, companies can be compelled to share data with the government.
TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas during a Senate hearing in September that the company has strict controls over access to data and where it's stored, and that the company wouldn't give that data to the Chinese government.
The Rubio-King bill is one of many proposals that have been introduced in recent days to deal with concerns over TikTok. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has been critical of TikTok in past, has not endorsed any specific measures and Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is pursuing his own legislation that gives the administration authority to pursue restrictions on a whole host of foreign-owned apps but doesn't specifically target TikTok.
The Rubio-King bill, which was first introduced last Congress by Rubio along with Representatives Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, has added a key lawmaker with King, who has been active on cybersecurity issues.
"Make no mistake - every 'private' enterprise in China has direct ties and on-demand information-sharing requirements with the national government," King said in a statement referencing TikTok.
Meanwhile, Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, wrote to the CEOs of Apple and Google urging them to bar the platform from their app stores, citing national security concerns.