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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 SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonCotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans MORE (R-Ark.) wrote in a letter this month to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireRetired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones 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 RubioHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus 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 MnuchinMcConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl On The Money: Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election | Holiday spending estimates lowest in four years | Domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election 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 DenhamEx-RNC, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in covert lobbying scheme Bottom line Bottom line 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.”