The potential ban of the popular social media app TikTok over security concerns led to both strong bipartisan support, as well as considerable backlash. In particular, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is pushing for the app to stay legal.
The representative, commonly referred to by her initials AOC, posted a video on TikTok that addressed concerns that TikTok was passing information to the Chinese government.
TikTok has become one of the most popular social media networks, allowing a primarily younger audience access to short videos. The app is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which led to many concerns regarding privacy.
There are several key concerns about the app and the potential to send users’ private information to Beijing. In 2017, China passed a law that requires companies to turn over any users’ data the government believes is vital to national security.
Ocasio-Cortez said in her video that major data harvesting happens on other popular social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.
The New York Democrat said that “the solution here is not to ban an individual company but to actually protect Americans from this kind of egregious data harvesting that companies can do without your significant ability to say no.”
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She added that there has been no classified briefing before Congress on concerns about the app.
Ocasio-Cortez asked why Congress would be “proposing a ban regarding such a significant issue without being clued in on this at all?”
The member of Congress referenced that more than 150 million Americans use TikTok.
While American officials state that there is no proof that such a transfer of data has happened, there is concern that it either is happening or will happen. Furthermore, the platform is exceptionally popular among American teenagers, with about two-thirds of that cohort using the app.
Testimony on Capitol Hill has done little to assuage fears that TikTok could send sensitive data to the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew told Congress that China may have access to users’ data. He was asked about the possibility by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH).
The CEO said that currently “there is still some data that we need to delete.”
He also said that once an update to TikTok is complete, he believes that the Chinese government would not be able to access the information. He also denied that the app has shared any information with Beijing.
Many states have pushed for bans of official use of the app. More than two dozen states and associated agencies have banned the use of TikTok on official devices. Congress is currently considering a wider ban regarding the app after the federal government banned its use on official devices.
The United States is not alone in its concerns about the video service. Canada banned the use of the app on government devices, as did the government of Denmark. A similar ban affected some devices used by the European Union.