About two years ago, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., downloaded TikTok after hearing a lot of talk about the well-known video-sharing app. But he was dissatisfied with it, complaining that it did not provide him with content that was significantly more “compelling” than what he would see on Facebook Reels or Instagram Stories.
I never actually became a very active user, he admitted to NBC News. According to him, he terminated his account and deleted the TikTok app from his phone after learning about ByteDance, the Beijing-based business that runs the app.
And right now, he wants to remove it from a lot more gadgets.
Johnson unveiled the Block the Tok Act last week. It forbids the installation and use of TikTok on any government device, as well as on private devices at military installations and a variety of federal agencies, including the State Department, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and other members of the intelligence community.
Additionally, the measure would forbid TikTok from accessing user information of American residents while located in China and would order the Federal Trade Commission to look into the possibility that the business has participated in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. In response to a request for comment, the corporation remained silent.
As a result of the parent company’s connections to China, TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny. Lawmakers and officials are worried that ByteDance may provide China’s government access to American user data or that Beijing may interfere with TikTok’s algorithm.
BuzzFeed News‘s study this summer revealed that TikTok staff in China had access to American data.
The business stated on Twitter on Wednesday that it is moving closer to a definitive deal with the American government to further protect user data from the country and take into account national security concerns.
During a hearing that same day with other social media executives, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee interrogated Vanessa Pappas, the chief operating officer of TikToks. Pappas emphasized that TikTok does not share data with the Chinese government and that it “in no way, shape, or form” exerts control over its behavior or policy.
She confirmed that we indeed have workers stationed in China. The kind of data they can access and the location of that data, which is in the US, are both subject to very rigorous access rules. Additionally, we have stated that we would never provide China with this information.
Pappas responded, “Our final deal with the U.S. government will address all national security concerns,” when Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pressed him on whether TikTok would formally pledge to stop sending any data or metadata to China.
After that hearing, Johnson told NBC News, he believed the chances of his legislation passing had increased.
She claims that TikTok would never provide that information to China, he claimed. She didn’t claim, though, that ByteDance wouldn’t help shift that kind of data to China. I should also point out that similar claims from TikTok have been debunked in the past.
A class action complaint including allegations that TikTok inappropriately collected data was heard by a federal judge last month. The plaintiffs included users of the platform and approved a $92 million settlement between TikTok.
Republican Representatives Brian Mast of Florida, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Chris Smith of New Jersey, and Jake LaTurner of Kansas are cosponsors of Johnson’s bill. Before the House breaks for the election season in two weeks, he is trying to secure more votes.
Because of TikTok’s parent company’s connections to China and its appeal to teens, restricting the app has gained popularity among conservative groups.
During a panel discussion at the National Conservatism Conference this week in Miami, Emily Jashinsky, a culture editor at the right-leaning journal The Federalist, said that TikTok should be simply prohibited without any hesitation. It is an abomination to our society.
While the majority of Americans now have a greater knowledge of how social media companies are using their information, according to Johnson, their response has typically been a shrug. He hopes that many people would change their minds about TikTok, like he did.
I deactivated the app as I became more and more aware of the scope of this issue,” he stated. And I believe it’s the kind of careful and serious learning process that we need every federal employee—and, for that matter, every American—to undertake.