Time may be TikToking away for TikTok and the Americans who use it.
On Friday, six more U.S. Senators signed on as sponsors of the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, bipartisan legislation giving President Joe Biden new powers to ban the Chinese-owned app. Now 18 senators are on board, and the Biden administration has endorsed the effort.
Not on the list of sponsors: Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman. They are, however, on a recently-compiled list of a handful of members of Congress with TikTok accounts.
Both accounts were still active as of Sunday night. Neither senator responded to repeated requests for comment about their decision to remain on the controversial — and Communist-owned — video app.
The issue of TikTok giving China’s government access to data on U.S. citizens isn’t new. President Donald Trump tried to ban the app in 2020 but was blocked by the courts. Late last year, Biden signed an order banning the app from nearly all federal government devices.
The social media platform that is very popular with teenagers is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. ByteDance had admitted that some employees had filched Americans’ information, The New York Times reported. But the parent company claimed those workers were fired.
Biden is demanding ByteDance sell TikTok. And the Biden Justice Department is investigating whether the Chinese-made app is spying on some of the journalists who cover the tech industry.
More and more Pennsylvania government entities are banning the app, including Chester County and Bucks County, which just filed a lawsuit against it for harming children’s mental health. In state government, Treasurer Stacy Garrity banned it on state devices her department controls. However, Gov. Josh Shapiro has a campaign account. At the same time, however, Shapiro was investigating TikTok as attorney general for its impact on youth.
A January 2023 review by States News Service confirmed 32 of the 535 members of Congress had TikTok accounts, including Casey, Fetterman, and local Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks)
Contacted by DVJournal, a Houlahan spokesperson confirmed, “Her account still exists, but it is not active, and it is not on any House-issued devices.”
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before Congress on Thursday. According to reports, he plans to argue that the app, which has about 150 million regular users in the U.S. — or about 45 percent of the population — is too deeply enmeshed in the nation’s social media to be banned.
A TikTok spokesperson recently sent DVJournal this statement: “The ban of TikTok on federal devices was passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately, that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater. We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.
“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies, and we are well underway in implementing them to further secure our platform in the United States.”
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