This Wednesday, another Chinese company was brought under the US national security radar. Two senior senators from both key parties, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), took aim at widely popular video company TikTok, writing a letter to the US intelligence officials to exhort them to investigate if the app could be potential threat to national security.
The letter is addressed to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, requesting his officials to check the Beijing owned company’s data collection practices and confirm if the Communist Government of China has any authority to force the company to leak out the data collected from US users.
Schumer and Cotton wrote;
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 past one year has seen a trend of US lawmakers become increasingly concerned towards organizations which are in close ties with China. This summer, the eye was mostly focused Chinese telecom companies like Huawei and ZTE, considering their potential tie ups with the Chinese government, and today the same is happening with TikTok, whose popularity has shot up heavily in the United States.
Schumer and Cotton also mentioned that TikTok has been downloaded over 110 million times in United States alone.
A TikTok spokesperson responded;
We do not have details on the request and 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.
Earlier this month Senetor Marco Rubio (R-FL) requested the US government to investigate TikTok on the same grounds. As per a report from Guardian this September, TikTok is required to censor contents relating to Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or Falun Gong.
However, the company responded these guidelines are outdated, and they currently receive no inputs or influences from Chinese government.
These Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Community Party.