GOP lawmakers put new pressure on colleagues to quit TikTok

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The lawmakers’ push follows internal guidance on Capitol Hill from the top cybersecurity officials in each chamber starting back in 2020, warning staff against downloading or using TikTok. The memos have centered on concerns that the Chinese government could get its hands on TikTok’s massive amounts of user data because the app is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance.

The video app has an estimated 150 million monthly American users, including some lawmakers who use the popular platform to connect with constituents through videos about what they’re up to in Washington and back home.

“It is troublesome that some members continue to disregard these clear warnings and are even encouraging their constituents to use TikTok to interface with their elected representatives — especially since some of these users are minors,” Tillis and Crenshaw write. “We feel this situation warrants further action to protect the privacy of both sensitive congressional information and the personal information of our constituents.”

They are calling on the House and Senate to change chamber rules to bar members from using the app for “official business.” This would still leave the door open to members having campaign accounts on the platform but would keep them from using it as an official platform or dedicating any staff time to producing TikTok content.

The White House has offered support for broader, bipartisan efforts that could ban TikTok on a wider scale, and the Department of Justice is reportedly investigating ByteDance on suspicion of spying on American citizens and journalists.

When Beijing said it would fight any forced sale of the app, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pointed to that stance as evidence that TikTok would never be fully divorced from governmental interference.

There is a growing list of bills from Democrats and Republicans already out there. One, from Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Senate Minority Whip John Thune, would formally allow the Biden administration to ban technologies from China and five other countries. Another proposing a TikTok ban is from Chair Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) of the House Select Committee on China and the panel’s ranking member, Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill). A bill allowing sanctions on certain companies, including TikTok, from House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) already advanced out of that committee last month, but without support from any Democrats.

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( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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