A number of Republicans are doubling down on an effort to limit the use of TikTok by users in the United States due to concerns about data and privacy risks.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) told host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday morning that its 100 million US users should delete TikTok. “It’s highly addictive, highly destructive,” Gallagher said.
“Particularly as a younger member of Congress, this will make me very unpopular with your teenagers and many others,” Gallagher continued. “But the fundamental problem is this, Jake: TikTok is owned by ByteDance, and ByteDance is effectively controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” (TikTok is owned by ByteDance, which is based in Beijing.)
This claim, that the app is linked to the Chinese government, is echoed by many Republicans. “If you have TikTok on your phone, delete it now,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said last week. “And you should probably get a new phone as well.”
On Friday, Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that TikTok and the app WeChat were banned from being used on state-issued devices. “TikTok and WeChat data are a channel to the Chinese Communist Party, and their continued presence represents a threat to national security, the intelligence community, and the personal privacy of every single American,” Youngkin said in a statement.
The Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Utah also banned TikTok’s usage on state-owned devices. These states join a number of other Republican-led states—Texas, Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina and Nebraska—that have already enacted the same measure.
In the same vein, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that proposed banning the social media app from being used on devices issued by federal agencies. On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would “block and prohibit all transactions” by TikTok and any other social media apps operating “under the influence” of China. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Gallagher and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)
Despite the swirl of concerns, TikTok has said it doesn’t share information with the Chinese government. “It is troubling that rather than encouraging the administration to conclude its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
“We will continue to brief members of Congress on the plans that have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies—plans that we are well underway in implementing—to further secure our platform in the United States,” the spokesperson added.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post last month, Rubio and Gallagher accused President Joe Biden of “encouraging greater engagement with the platform by directly courting TikTok influencers,” after the president met with influencers, hoping their posts would bring more young voters to the polls for the midterm elections.
Similarly, Rubio and Gallagher wrote in a joint statement: “The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok.” Interestingly, former President Donald Trump attempted to ban TikTok from operating in the United States—yet his efforts were unsuccessful.