Will move forward with bill to block TikTok: US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

27 March, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma

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Amid growing calls in the United States to ban TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Sunday that lawmakers will mo...

Amid growing calls in the United States to ban TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Sunday that lawmakers will move forward with legislation to “protect Americans from the Chinese Communist Party’s technological tentacles.”

McCarthy stated on his official Twitter account that it is “very concerning” that the TikTok CEO cannot be honest and admit that China has access to TikTok.

McCarthy tweeted, “It’s very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can’t be honest and admit what we already know to be true–China has access to TikTok user data. The House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the United States Congress in the midst of growing security concerns and potential Chinese government influence over the company. The US House Energy and Commerce Committee grilled him harshly.

During her line of questioning, US Representative Debbie Lesko mentioned India and other countries that have recently banned TikTok in some form.

“This (TikTok) is a tool which is ultimately under the control of the Chinese government and screams out with national security concerns Mr Chew, how can all of these countries and our FBI director be wrong? asked Lesko.

In response, Shou Zi Chew said, “I think a lot of risks pointed out are hypothetical and theoretical risks. I have not seen any evidence.”

The Congresswoman once again reiterated and stressed on the India ban. “India banned TikTok in 2020. On March 21, a Forbes article revealed how data of Indian citizens who used TikTok remained accessible to employees at the company and its Beijing-based parent. A current TikTok employee told Forbes that nearly anyone with basic access to company tools can easily look up the closest contact and other sensitive information about any user,” Lesko informed her colleagues.

“You damn well know that you cannot protect the data and security of this committee or the 150 million users of your app because it is an extension of the CCP,” Lawmaker Kat Cammack of Florida told TikTok after playing a threatening video that was still on the platform more than a month after it had been posted, despite community guidelines barring violence or threats.

Asked during a hearing in Congress by Republican representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, TikTok’s chief was unable to “100 per cent guarantee” that Beijing was not influencing parts of the app.

Shou Zi Chew said the company is committed to firewalling US user data from “all unwanted foreign access” and would keep content “free from any manipulation from any government.”Another lawmaker from New Jersey said he wasn’t convinced that TikTok’s security plans would work.

“I still believe that the Beijing communist government will still control and have the ability to influence what you do,” he said, pushing back on what he said was TikTok’s attempt to portray itself as “a benign company that’s just performing a public service … I don’t buy it.”

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre while responding to a media query over the TikTok ban during a press briefing said, “We have expressed concerns over China’s potential use of software platforms that could endanger or threaten America’s safety and national security so that is the President concerned that is why we have called on Congress to take action.”

“We have seen a bipartisan piece of legislation that you know and have been covering, which is the President’s main priority. I am sure when it comes to their safety when it comes to their security and when it comes to our national security, those things are protected and so that has been the President’s focus over the last couple of years,” she added.