Democrats in Congress are making it clear that they want to ban the Chinese app TikTok in the U.S. Reported national security concerns over massive amounts of data that TikTok collects on its millions of American users sit at the core of why lawmakers want the app banned.
Democrats and Republicans alike have said certain information of serious concern could be transferred to China, making it a national security issue. However, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has repeatedly denied that it shares user data with the Chinese government.
“TikTok is a modern-day Trojan horse of the [Chinese Communist Party], used to surveil and exploit Americans’ personal information,” said Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“It’s a spy balloon in your phone,” McCaul said, alluding to a February incident in which a spy balloon from China traversed American skies.
Last month, House Foreign Affairs Committee members pushed for a bill that would give President Biden the power to ban TikTok on all mobile devices in the U.S.
However, Democrats voted against the measure.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate did offer support late last year for a bill that would ban TikTok on federal devices, and a bipartisan group of senators, led by Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.C.), also introduced a bill that would let Biden ban TikTok and other apps that come from other countries. Five Democrats and five Republicans have signed on a co-sponsor on that legislation.
President Biden reportedly supports the measure and has indicated a willingness to ban TikTok, which has more than 1.53 billion users globally as of 2023, with 1 billion monthly active users.
In February, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado called on Apple and “Unlike most social media platforms, TikTok poses a unique concern because Chinese law obligates ByteDance, its Beijing-based parent company, to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work,’” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who has demanded that Apple and Google remove TikTok from their app stores.
During a national television appearance, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said a TikTok ban “should be looked at.”The economic battle between the U.S. and China has been ongoing, with escalating tensions leading to threats of a potential armed conflict.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre even alluded to the conflict in her remarks attacking a House Freedom Caucus budget plan. “Extreme MAGA Republicans’ proposals would ship manufacturing jobs overseas, in a crushing blow to states from Ohio to Georgia to Arizona – and would provide a windfall of economic benefits to China,” Jean-Pierre stated.
TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter argued that a U.S. ban on TikTok would ban the export of American culture and values to over a billion people who use the app worldwide.
“A ban would stifle American speech and would be a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide,” Oberwetter declared.