On Tuesday, the head of the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command briefed lawmakers that US national security officials are concerned that TikTok could influence public opinion by blocking certain videos or promoting others, using its substantial global reach.
“When you have such a large audience, you can not only change something, but you can also turn off the message,” Gen. Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Nakasone said it’s also scary that TikTok collects data and controls the algorithm that decides what user content to show.
The White House told US federal agencies they have 30 days to remove TikTok from government-owned devices, which is why Nakasone said what he did. And they come at a time when Washington is having a considerable policy debate about what to do about one of the most popular apps among young people.
US officials have said for years that TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, collect information that could help the Chinese government spy on people. TikTok denies the claims and has asked the Biden administration to finish a national security deal that would let it keep working in the US in exchange for giving the US government more information about how it collects and stores data on Americans.
US Government Concerns
A representative for TikTok said the company has been working with the US government to address concerns about national security.
Brooke Oberwetter from TikTok said, “We will keep doing what we can to help the American people get a full national security plan.”
Some members of the House have tried to pass a bill that would force the Biden administration to ban TikTok outright, but the chances of that bill becoming law are low.
Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, and John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, plan to introduce a bipartisan Senate bill on Tuesday. The bill would give the Commerce Department the power to develop “mitigation measures,” which could include a ban, to deal with the risk that foreign-linked technologies pose.
When asked to show proof of collaboration between the Chinese government and ByteDance, US officials often need more details, just like when the US government tried to ban hardware and other gear made by Huawei, another big Chinese tech company.
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