On the one hand, there are dozens of US lawmakers issuing dire warnings about security breaches and possible Chinese surveillance. For the other, there are about 150 million users of TikTok in the United States who want to continue using the video platform.
The contrast illustrates the uphill battle lawmakers face trying to convince the public that China could weaponize TikTok against the United States. But many users of the platform are more worried about the government taking away their favorite app.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said during a nearly six-hour congressional hearing on Thursday that the platform has never provided user data to the Chinese government and would not do so if asked.
However, lawmakers, the FBI and officials from other agencies continue to raising the alarm that Chinese companies, such as TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, are required by Chinese law to hand over data to China for any purpose it deems related to national security. There are also concerns that Beijing could push narratives in its favor through the platform.
“They may not care about their data being accessed now, but one day they will”Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw told TikTok users during the hearing.
Many TikTok users reacted by posting videos in which they criticized lawmakers who questioned Chew and often prevented him from speaking. Some called a potential TikTok ban the “biggest scam” of the year. And others blamed the increased scrutiny on the platform on another tech rival, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
But few expressed fear of possible security breaches or Chinese surveillance which lawmakers continue to amplify as they seek to control TikTok.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, where Silicon Valley is located, said he is aware of the value that platforms like TikTok provide young people as an avenue for creative expression and community building. “But there’s absolutely no reason why an American tech company can’t do that.”added Khanna, the top Democrat on the House Armed Service cyber subcommittee. “America has the most innovative technology companies in the world”.
He added that Congress should move forward with a proposal that would force the sale of the platform to a US company so that its millions of users have continuous access while “ensuring that the platform is not subject to Chinese propaganda or compromises people’s privacy”.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of Americans ages 13 to 17 use TikTok, and 16% of all teens say they use it almost constantly. It’s because of TikTok’s large user base that Lindsay Gorman, a former technology adviser in President Joe Biden’s administration, says the government will likely look at all options before a ban. That would include the option for the app’s Chinese owners to divest, which the US government is reportedly asking of TikTok if it wants to avoid a nationwide ban.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism