Technology

Schumer, Cotton request TikTok security assessment

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Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (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 Maguire.

{mosads}”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 Rubio (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 Warren (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 Denham (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.

Tags Charles Schumer Elizabeth Warren Jeff Denham Joseph Maguire Marco Rubio tiktok Tom Cotton
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