Chinese Ties: TikTok Under Fire in Washington

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Two years after then-President Donald Trump declared he would outlaw TikTok in the US through an executive order, the short-form video platform is once more in the spotlight in Washington. The core problem, TikTok’s connections to China through its parent company, Bytedance, is still substantially the same.

Assumed national security and data privacy issues are among the reasons why more US politicians are urging the Biden administration to take action against TikTok. The issue originates from a Buzzfeed News article from June that claimed that some US user data had been regularly accessed from China. A TikTok employee is reported to have declared, “Everything is viewed in China,” in one of the many internal meetings that were captured on tape by hackers.

In a prior statement in reaction to the allegations, TikTok stated that it had always maintained that under those stringent rules, our engineers working in countries other than the US, such as China, might be given access to US user data as needed. A TikTok executive stated during testimony before a Senate committee last year that the company does not share information with the Chinese government and that a US-based security team determines who is permitted access to US user data coming from China.

As TikTok’s popularity in the US continues to rise, there is a fresh wave of pressure on the platform. The presidential order was repealed by the Biden administration after Trump left office, and official efforts to outlaw TikTok were mostly abandoned. More than 100 million users are reportedly present in the United States, according to various market research estimates. Last year, TikTok claimed to have over 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. The country’s news cycle, popular music, food trends, and other things are all still influenced by the app’s activity. However, in an effort to compete, other US social media juggernauts continue to copy TikTok’s features.

Read Also: TikTok: Instagram bows to pressure, halts reinvention plans 

According to some critics, Trump’s campaign against the rapidly expanding video app has drawn criticism for being xenophobic political theater, which also criticized Trump’s strange suggestion that the United States should receive a “cut” of any deal if it forces the app to be sold to an American company. But the most recent round of criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum demonstrates how the national security problem still affects TikTok in the United States, despite a change in leadership.

Congressional statements regarding TikTok

Recent months have seen a number of US senators and officials demand for fresh inquiries into TikTok’s data storage methods, or even for the app to be removed from US app stores.

The Biden administration is being questioned about what steps it is taking to address “the national security vulnerabilities posed by TikTok,” according to a group of Republican senators led by Tom Cotton of Arkansas in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in June.

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, also received a letter from a different group of Republican senators, led by Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. The senators claimed that recent media stories “confirm what legislators long suspected about TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance—that they are utilizing their access to a gold mine of US consumer data to monitor Americans.”

The Federal Trade Commission was encouraged to formally look into TikTok and ByteDance by a group of politicians from both parties on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The letters from Virginia senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio and Florida senator Marco Rubio urged the recipient to take immediate action due to TikTok’s persistent misrepresentations about its data protection, data processing, and corporate governance procedures.

An FCC commissioner pleaded with Apple and Google in a letter to take TikTok out of their app stores. Brendan Carr, a commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission, asserted that ByteDance was “beholden” to the Chinese government and “bound by law to cooperate” with its requests for surveillance. Even though the FCC has no authority to regulate app shops, the letter received a lot of media attention. 

TikTok’s reply

In the midst of the recent outcry, TikTok declared that it has transferred its US user data to Oracle’s cloud platform, meaning that “100% of US user traffic” is now housed by the cloud provider, potentially resolving national security issues.

Recently, TikTok also promised to provide researchers with access to its application programming interface (API) so they may see more information on what is happening on the platform.

Opinions expressed by San Francisco Post contributors are their own.

Jennifer Smith

A social-media savvy and works as an IT consultant on a communication firm in Los Angeles. She manages her blog site and a part-time writer.

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