Schumer, Cotton request TikTok security assessment

Schumer, Cotton request TikTok security assessment
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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Ark.) on Thursday asked U.S. intelligence officials to assess whether Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok poses "national security risks.”

"Security experts have voiced concerns that China’s vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireLive coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report MORE.

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"Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings."

The senators also raised concerns that TikTok may be adhering to Chinese censorship rules to limit what users can see, including content related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the treatment of the minority Uighur population.

Schumer and Cotton also raised concerns that TikTok could be a “potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 2016 election on U.S.-based social media platforms."

The issues raised in the letter come amid government-wide unease with influential Chinese firms over concerns that Beijing may have access to sensitive information.

A spokesperson for TikTok told The Hill that it is reviewing the letter.

"We will not be offering any further comment on it at this time other than to reaffirm that TikTok is committed to being a trusted and responsible corporate citizen in the US, which includes working with Congress and all relevant regulatory agencies," they said.

TikTok, which hosts short-form videos often set to music, was downloaded 663 million times in 2018. Its growing popularity has brought increased scrutiny from American lawmakers and regulators.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) earlier this month urged regulators to investigate the acquisition of social video platform Music.ly by ByteDance, TikTok's parent company. 

Open Markets Institute, an antitrust advocacy organization with close ties to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Bloomberg, Patrick take different approaches after late entries into primary race Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE (D-Mass.), echoed that call on Thursday. 

"Furthermore, U.S. authorities should require Bytendance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners, or else ban TikTok in the U.S.," Open Markets said in a statement.

"At best, TikTok is a direct source for the Chinese to harvest American user data," they said. "At worst, TikTok is an opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party to use algorithms to manipulate Americans to push an authoritarian agenda." 

ByteDance bolstered its team in response to the new attention this month with the addition of former Reps. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties MORE (R-Calif.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who will help develop content moderation policies.

In June, ByteDance registered to lobby in the U.S., putting "general issues affecting internet companies" as one of its priorities.

It also hired American law firm Covington & Burling in July to provide advice on tech policy issues.

—Updated at 3:41 p.m.