Momentum builds in Congress to crack down on TikTok

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WASHINGTON — There’s no consensus but, however bipartisan momentum is constructing for Congress to do one thing, something, to crack down on TikTok.

Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have proposed payments that may ban the Chinese language-owned social media behemoth in the USA.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., teamed up on a letter demanding that the Biden administration impose a wall between TikTok’s U.S. operations and its Chinese language guardian firm, ByteDance.

And in a uncommon one-on-one assembly this week on Capitol Hill, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., stated he urged TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew “to think about his platform’s hurt to a technology of Individuals.”

“TikTok is digital fentanyl,” stated Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the chairman of the brand new Home choose committee on China.

Late final yr, Congress handed and President Joe Biden signed into regulation a sprawling spending bundle that included laws that bans TikTok on millions of federal government devices.

Now lawmakers wish to go additional. And so they’re sounding the alarm that the Chinese language Communist Occasion is utilizing TikTok as an entry level to spy on its tens of thousands and thousands of American customers. The corporate has additionally come below hearth as Congress takes a more durable have a look at the hurt brought on by social media — particularly to youngsters who’ve flocked to the viral video app.

The invention of a Chinese language spy balloon in U.S. airspace has solely amplified the warnings. And Deputy Lawyer Basic Lisa Monaco this week warned Americans to not use TikTok, citing safety issues.

“I feel TikTok is a Chinese language espionage instrument. I feel it’s profoundly harmful,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the highest Republican on the Commerce committee, stated in an interview. “I feel it’s used to affect kids and youngsters in an extremely dangerous method, to push them towards self-destructive conduct, together with self-harm, together with physique picture points that result in all types of consuming problems, that result in substance abuse, that may result in teen suicide.

“I consider we have to have actual scrutiny, and we have to be taking way more steps to guard towards TikTok,” added Cruz, who stated he urged Commerce Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to carry a listening to with TikTok executives throughout a latest lunch.

Hawley, who led the push for the restricted authorities system ban, stated there may be “ahead progress” on cracking down on TikTok. Along with rolling out a invoice that may ban the downloading of TikTok on any system in the USA, he additionally launched laws this week that may ban children under 16 from creating accounts on any social media app.

“This can be a firm that lies for a dwelling. They’ve lied to Congress repeatedly. They’ve lied to the American public. And now they’re on this last-minute public relations tour as a result of they’re afraid they’re gonna get banned and they need to be banned,” stated Hawley, who serves on the Judiciary and Homeland Safety committees. “We should always ban them in the USA — that’s the answer to the TikTok downside.”

In an announcement to NBC Information, TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter responded to the criticism: “We hope that Congress will discover options to their issues about TikTok that received’t have the impact of censoring the voices of thousands and thousands of Individuals.”

She added that the “swiftest and most thorough approach” to handle nationwide safety issues is for the Committee on Overseas Funding in the USA, or CIFIUS, to log off on a possible safety settlement regarding the social media firm.

“That plan contains layers of presidency and impartial oversight to make sure that there aren’t any backdoors into TikTok that could possibly be used to entry information or manipulate the platform,” Oberwetter stated. “These measures transcend what any peer firm is doing in the present day on safety.”

In response to Cruz slamming TikTok as a “Chinese language espionage instrument,” Oberwetter stated: “There isn’t a reality to Sen. Cruz’s outrageous declare that TikTok shares U.S. person information with the Chinese language authorities or the Chinese language Communist Occasion. We take the protection of our group very severely, and welcome a dialogue with Sen. Cruz and different stakeholders about how our trade can work collectively to help the well-being of teenagers and households.”

Some Democrats are additionally bullish on a nationwide ban on TikTok. “If it got here up for a vote, I might vote for it,” Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., a member of the Commerce committee, advised NBC Information. 

Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, the bulk whip and No. 2 Democrat, stated Congress “ought to search out methods to limit TikTok’s entry to Individuals and American companies … in each constitutional approach attainable.”

Durbin stated he plans to talk to Hawley about his age-restriction proposal and pledged that the Judiciary committee would mark up laws quickly that addresses the dangerous results of social media. 

“So we’re gonna pursue this. I wish to put a invoice within the committee for a markup. We’ve a number of very strong base payments to work off of. I’ll think about [Hawley’s], in fact, however I feel the sentiment shared by each side of the aisle was very potent and powerful in that social media companies higher get actual,” Durbin stated.

“We’re sick and bored with what they’re doing to our children.”

Rubio, vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Angus King, a Maine impartial who caucuses with Democrats, have authored one other invoice concentrating on TikTok: The Averting the Nationwide Menace of Web Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Affect, and Algorithmic Studying by the Chinese language Communist Occasion Act, or Anti-Social CCP Act.

Particularly, the invoice would block all transactions from TikTok or some other social media firm that’s primarily based in or below the affect of China, Russia or some other “nation of concern.” Reps. Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Sick. — the leaders of the new select China committee — have launched a companion invoice within the Home.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a member of the Commerce panel, stated he’s nonetheless reviewing a number of the proposed TikTok payments and is “alarmed” by the corporate. “However it’s arduous to make a regulation nicely that solely targets one firm,” he stated.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a senior member of the Overseas Relations Committee, hasn’t taken a place on a TikTok ban however identified that her panel this week held a listening to on how social media apps are getting used to promote fentanyl and different medicine to younger folks. 

“We’d like a complete strategy,” she stated. “That’s what I want to do.”

Amid the requires a congressional crackdown, Chew launched a allure offensive in Washington this week, attempting to persuade key lawmakers, suppose tanks and reporters that the app brings worth to its 100 million American customers and shouldn’t be outlawed.

“There are greater than 100 million voices on this nation, and I feel it’ll be an actual disgrace if our customers world wide usually are not in a position to hear them anymore,” Chew stated in an interview with The Washington Post. “We’ve to have robust conversations on who’s utilizing it now? What sort of worth does it carry to them? What does it imply if we simply, like, rip it out of their arms?”

It’s unclear if the TikTok CEO modified any minds. After huddling with Chew, Bennet stated he stays “basically involved that TikTok, as a Chinese language-owned firm, is topic to dictates from the Chinese language Communist Occasion and poses an unacceptable danger to U.S. nationwide safety.”

“Mr. Chew and I additionally mentioned the toxic affect of TikTok’s algorithms on teen psychological well being, and I urged him to think about his platform’s hurt to a technology of Individuals,” added the senator, a former Denver Public Faculties superintendent.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R- Miss., a vocal critic of TikTok who now’s the highest Republican on the Armed Companies committee, additionally agreed to take a seat down with Chew this week “as a courtesy,” his workplace confirmed.

Wicker’s “views on TikTok and its menace to American pursuits stay fully unchanged,” a Wicker spokesperson stated.

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