U.S. lawmakers to move forward with TikTok legislation

U.S. lawmakers to move forward with TikTok legislation

WASHINGTON Reuters -- Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Sunday that lawmakers would move forward with legislation to address national security concerns about TikTok, alleging China's government had access to the short video app's user data.

In the United States, there are growing calls to banning TikTok, owned by China-based company ByteDance, or passing bipartisan legislation to give President Joe Biden the authority to seek a ban. Devices owned by the U.S. government have been banned from having the app installed.

McCarthy said on Twitter that the House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared in front of the U.S. House CommitteeHouse Committee for about five hours on Thursday, and lawmakers from both parties grilled him about national security and other concerns involving the app, which has 150 million American users.

In Thursday's hearing, the TikTok CEO was asked if the app had spied on Americans at Beijing's request. In December of last year, Republican Representative Neal Dunn said that some China-based employees at ByteDance improperly accessed TikTok user data of two journalists and were no longer employed by the company. He asked if ByteDance was spying.

Chew said that I don't think that spying is the right way to describe it. He went on to describe the reports as an internal investigation before being cut off.

McCarthy, a Republican, said in a tweet on Sunday that it was very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can't be honest and admit that China already has access to TikTok user data. The company says it has spent more than 1.5 billion on data security efforts under the name Project Texas, which currently has nearly 1,500 full-time employees and is contracted with Oracle Corp to store TikTok's U.S. user data.

Rather than appease lawmakers' concerns, Chew's appearance before Congress on Thursday increased the likelihood that Congress will take some action, according to Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

In 2020, the former U.S. President Donald Trump lost a series of court rulings when he tried to ban TikTok and another Chinese-owned app, WeChat, a unit of Tencent.

Many Democrats have raised concerns, but have not yet explicitly supported a U.S. ban.