US launches national security review of Chinese-owned app TikTok: report

US launches national security review of Chinese-owned app TikTok: report
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A U.S. government committee has launched a national security probe into TikTok, a massively popular video-sharing platform under scrutiny over its ties to China. 

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency body that deals with national security concerns stemming from transactions involving overseas companies, is reviewing Chinese firm Bytedance’s acquisition of U.S. app Musical.ly, Reuters reported

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Two sources familiar with the investigation told the news outlet that the body has the scope to investigate the acquisition because TikTok did not initially seek clearance from CFIUS.

The Hill has reached out to the committee for comment.

News of the review comes after several top senators raised sharp concerns over a Chinese-owned company amassing a broad swath of U.S. user data.  

"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," Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial Feds seek 25-year sentence for Coast Guard officer accused of targeting lawmakers, justices Clinton: McConnell's rules like 'head juror colluding with the defendant to cover up a crime' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP rep introduces bill to block intelligence sharing with countries using Huawei for 5G Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Cotton introduces bill blocking intel sharing with countries relying on Huawei for 5G MORE (R-Ark.) wrote in a letter this month to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireThe Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Schiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim MORE.

Lawmakers and advocates have also suggested that TikTok may be censoring politically sensitive content, including information about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioApple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Surging Sanders draws fresh scrutiny ahead of debate MORE (R-Fla.) had called for a CFIUS review of TikTok specifically, claiming there is “ample and growing evidence” that the Chinese government censors content on the platform. 

“These Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party,” Rubio wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Apple reportedly dropped plans to let iPhone users encrypt backups | Justices decline facial recognition case | Critics fear Facebook losing misinformation fight | Truce on French tech tax On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Trump at Davos warns Europe on trade | President boasts about US economy to global elite | Experts say Trump trade victories may yield little growth MORE last month. 

TikTok, which hosts short-form videos created by users, has skyrocketed in American markets recently, and was the top-downloaded app for Apple and Google in September.

ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, has braced itself for increased scrutiny as its popularity grows by bolstering its legal and content moderation teams.

It hired former Reps. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company MORE (R-Calif.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) last month and formerly registered to lobby in the U.S. in June.

"While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S.,” a spokesperson told The Hill. 

“Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so.”