House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Sunday that Congress would be taking up legislation against TikTok this week. McCarthy cited concerns about China having access to TikTok user data and the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning responded by claiming the U.S. made a presumption of guilt against TikTok without presenting any evidence that threatens its national security.
Last Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, insisting the platform has never turned over user data to the Chinese government and wouldn’t do so if asked. Despite his testimony, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the FBI have raised concerns that Chinese law compels Chinese companies like ByteDance to hand over data to the government.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who chairs the House select committee on U.S. competition with China, said he believed Chew's testimony has "increased the likelihood Congress would take some action" on the issue, whether that be legislation for an all out ban or a forced sale of TikTok to an American company. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, warned American teenagers and TikTok influencers that their data might be accessed now, but they will care about it when they are older.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was criticized for defending TikTok after it was revealed parent company ByteDance gave six-figure donations to the Black and Hispanic caucus nonprofits.
TikTok itself has been trying to leverage its popularity by sending dozens of influencers to Congress to lobby against a ban and ramping up a broader public relations campaign. The platform also touts 150 million active users in the United States.
As a result of this controversy, it remains to be seen what action Congress will take on regulating or banning the app. It is clear, however, that the issue is of major concern to both sides of the aisle.