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US lawmakers want to ban TikTok over concerns about Chinese espionage

US lawmakers want to ban TikTok over concerns about Chinese espionage

The TikTok logo appears on a smartphone in this staged photo in London, Britain, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. TikTok has become a flashpoint amid rising tensions between the United States and China in recent months as American politicians raised concerns that parent company ByteDance Ltd.  could be forced to hand over US user data to Beijing or use the app to influence the 165 million Americans, and more than 2 billion users globally, who have downloaded it.  Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Monday, Alabama and Utah joined other US states banning the use of TikTok on government entities (Image: Getty Images)

TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social media app, could face a ban in the US.

On Tuesday, Republican Senator Marco Rubio announced bipartisan legislation to ban the video-sharing app, amid fears it could be used to spy on Americans and censor content.

The legislation would block all transactions by any social media company in or under the influence of China and Russia, Rubio’s office said in a press release, adding that a companion bill in the US House of Representatives was sponsored by Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi.

“It is troubling that instead of encouraging the administration to end its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.

They added that the company will continue to brief members of Congress on plans “well underway” to “further secure our platform in the US”.

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TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social media app, could face a US ban (Image: Chesnot/Getty Images)

“American social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have a terrible record when it comes to tracking, privacy and political bias. But TikTok, with its close ties to China’s authoritarian government, takes it to a more nefarious level, said Mark Weinstein, an expert on social media and privacy.

The bill comes as scrutiny of ByteDance-owned TikTok has grown in Washington in recent weeks.

At a hearing last month, FBI Director Chris Wray said TikTok’s US operations raise national security concerns, and flagged the risk that the Chinese government could exploit it to influence users or control their devices.

On Monday, Alabama and Utah joined other US states banning the use of TikTok on state government devices and computer networks due to national security concerns.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump tried to block the app’s use in the United States, but lost a series of court battles over the measure.

TikTok logo

The bill comes as scrutiny of ByteDance-owned TikTok has grown in Washington in recent weeks (Image: AP)

In 2020, the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security agency, ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok over fears that US user data could be passed on to China’s communist government.

CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks for months with the goal of reaching a national security agreement to protect the data of TikTok’s more than 100 million users.

In June 2021, TikTok updated its privacy policy so that it can now collect ‘new types of biometric information, including facial prints and voice prints.

“Not only is this technology terribly invasive for TikTok users, it’s also dangerous. You can change your password if it’s hacked or compromised, but you can’t change your face or voice if they’re stolen,’

In August, the British Parliament’s TikTok account was shut down after MPs raised concerns about the social media firm’s links to China.

In 2020, India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps as tensions erupted at the border.

MORE: US state bans TikTok from government entities due to ‘national security threat’

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