DC-area lawmakers consider bill that would prohibit TikTok in the US

Close to 170 million Americans use the social media app TikTok, but lawmakers say the popular social media platform poses a threat to national security.

“We’re at a moment in time when almost half of young people in America get their news from Tik Tok,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner. “And there is clear evidence that the Chinese Communist Party could manipulate the algorithm to manipulate the type of news that these young people could be getting.”

New legislation endorsed by President Joe Biden on Thursday would give Chinese company ByteDance, which owns TikTok, 180 days to divest the app, or else TikTok would be prohibited in the U.S. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson also supports the bill and has indicated it would soon come up for a full vote in the House.

“Under the current structure, a lot of personal data of Americans is now potentially flowing back to the (People’s Republic of China), to the Chinese Communist Party,” said Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes. “And that can be used against us. It can be weaponized against us. We want to undo that link.”

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that TikTok owner ByteDance could share user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government. TikTok said it has never done that and wouldn’t do so if asked. The U.S. government also hasn’t provided evidence of that happening.

“We are doing what we can in Congress to make sure that you can use TikTok without concern that there’s some danger that your data is going to end up in the wrong place,” Sarbanes said.

If enacted, the bill would effectively ban TikTok and other ByteDance apps from being available in Apple or Google app stores or on web hosting services in the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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