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 SchumerSchiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package Meadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program MORE (D-N.Y.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOn The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: Tech CEOs brace for House grilling | Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds | Twitter limits Trump Jr.'s account MORE (R-Ark.) wrote in a letter this month to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireCongressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones Hillicon Valley: Pompeo floats TikTok ban | Civil rights groups slam Facebook after call | Election security funding included in proposal 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 RubioSenate Intel panel approves final Russia report, moves toward public release Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Mnuchin: Negotiators no closer to coronavirus deal than a week ago 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 MnuchinNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package Lawmakers aim for COVID-19 relief deal this week 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 Bottom line Lobbying world 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.”