TikTok, the social media app known for its short viral videos, has been proposed as a ban by US lawmakers, citing national security concerns.
The bipartisan bill is the latest action taken in the United States against the company, which is owned by Chinese tech behemoth ByteDance.
Last month, the FBI’s director expressed concern that China could use the app to influence or control users’ electronics. Several US states have prohibited it from being used in government devices.
However, the bill faces significant challenges.
TikTok, which has over 100 million users in the United States, described the measure as a “politically motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”
As part of the national security review initiated by former President Donald Trump, the company is developing plans “that we are well underway in implementing” to further secure the platform in the United States.
“We will continue to update members of Congress on the plans,” the statement said.
Political attacks on TikTok are indicative of strained relations between the United States and China, according to Caitlin Chin, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, DC-based think tank.
However, she believes that a national ban on TikTok is unlikely anytime soon, noting that lawmakers in the United States have been slow to update data privacy and content moderation rules, despite widespread agreement that some changes are required.
She added that, so far, much of the concern about TikTok and China has been based on the possibility of abuse rather than evidence of it.
“From a privacy standpoint, simply prohibiting a company like TikTok from operating does not close the gaps,” she explained, pointing out that many other websites collect similar data.
TikTok bans have also been proposed in countries such as Australia, and Taiwan recently moved to ban it from public devices. In 2020, India blocked it due to a military dispute.
In the United States, TikTok faced an effective ban two years ago as a result of Mr Trump’s executive order prohibiting new downloads, but the measure was blocked by judges and never went into effect.
President Joe Biden eventually revoked it.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is in charge of reviewing foreign ownership in the United States, also ordered ByteDance to sell TikTok in 2020.
Negotiations between the company and that body are still ongoing.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of the bill’s supporters, argued that action is long overdue, claiming support from at least one Democrat.
He claimed that his bill would block and prohibit all transactions from any social media company based in, or controlled by, China, Russia, or “other foreign countries of concern.”
“This isn’t about creative videos; it’s about an app that collects data on tens of millions of American children and adults on a daily basis,” he explained.