Republican lawmaker calls TikTok ‘an immediate threat’ and calls for app to be banned

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said Sunday that TikTok represents “an immediate threat” from China and called for the short-form video app to be banned in the US.

The chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Congress should pass a data privacy law and ban TikTok in the US after the company’s CEO Shou Chew testified in front of her committee on Thursday.

McMorris Rodgers said Chew’s testimony “made clear” that TikTok is a threat to the US.

“What the hearing made clear to me was that TikTok should be banned in the United States of America to address the immediate threat and we also need a national data privacy law,” McMorris Rodgers told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

The Republican lawmaker cited TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, being connected to China as evidence of the national security risk.

While many nations have imposed bans on official government devices out of national security concerns, there is currently no public evidence the Chinese government has spied on people through TikTok.

The company told CNN in a statement, “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent US-based protection of US user data and systems with robust third-party monitoring, vetting and verification, which we are already implementing.”

On Sunday, McMorris Rodgers responded to criticism from TikTok users, many of whom mocked lawmakers for their lack of familiarity with the app and questioned why Congress would spend time regulating social media. She noted the rare bipartisan agreement on the national security risks the app presents.

“I would say there is an immediate threat via TikTok from the Chinese Communist Party. That is the reason that I believe we need to ban TikTok immediately. It is a national security threat,” McMorris Rodgers said. “It united Republicans and Democrats on the committee as to the urgent need for us to take action.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, also shared concerns over the app’s connection to China on Sunday.

“At the end of the day, TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, and by Chinese law, that company has to be willing to turn over data to the Communist Party or, one of my bigger fears, we have 150 million Americans on TikTok, average of about 90 minutes a day, and how that channel could be used for propaganda purposes or disinformation by the Communist Party,” Warner said in an interview with CBS News.

McMorris Rodgers also emphasized the need to pass a national data privacy law to restrict all social media platforms from collecting user data, including those based in the US.

“We need to take action whether it’s TikTok, big tech or other data brokers to restrict the amount of data that they’re collecting to begin with,” she said.

In a tweet Sunday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused Chew of dishonesty regarding access to user data and said the House would be “moving forward with legislation.”

When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju last week if he would support a congressional ban on the app, McCarthy responded, “Yes.”

He added: “I think you see a bipartisan concern here with what’s happening on TikTok, especially what’s happening to the data for Americans … There’s many different ramifications here, so I think they could come together. I’d let the committees do their work and see if the product comes out when it gets done.”

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