Washington [United States] : There could be more Congressional prohibitions against TikTok after a new ban on the use of Chinese social media app on US government devices with lawmakers keen on more action against what they perceive as national security threat, Radio Free Asia reported.
The report said that $1.7 trillion spending bill, which funds the federal government to September 2023, was passed by the House of Representatives after it had won Senate approval on Thursday. The package includes a law that prohibits the installation of TikTok on federal government devices, the report said.
When he introduced a bill to ban TikTok entirely in the United States earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) accused TikTok and its parent company ByteDance of "collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults" in order "to spy" on them on Beijing's behalf, Radio Free Asia reported.
"We know it's used to manipulate feeds and influence elections," Rubio said. "We know it answers to the People's Republic of China. There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good," the report quoted Rubio as saying.
According to the report, The New York Times and other outlets have reported that a ByteDance internal investigation found four employees had accessed the IP addresses and other data of two reporters and a small circle of people linked to the journalists.
The goal was to uncover the source of suspected leaks about the company, it said.
According to Radio Free Asia, ByteDance said the four employees involved - two of whom worked in China and two in the US - had been fired.
National security experts have cited TikTok as a particular threat due to the fact ByteDance is subject to the Chinese Communist Party's orders, the report said.
Democrats, including Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have also raised concerns about the app's ties to, and origins in, China's extensive surveillance state.
According to Radio Free Asia report, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter declined to comment on the prospects of more widespread bans being enacted by Congress next year, but criticized the banning of the app on government devices.
Security experts question how much trust should be placed in TikTok's assurances that the data of US citizens is being siloed from the servers of a parent company under the thumb of Beijing authorities.
It's a square that could be hard to circle for TikTok, said Sameer Patil, a professor at the University of Utah and user privacy expert.
"In general, lawmakers ought to be concerned about any app or service over which they might have limited jurisdiction, not just to regulate their operation but also to enforce laws and regulations and perform meaningful oversight," Patil told Radio Free Asia.
TikTok's censoring of anything disliked by Beijing has long been known, with references to Tibetan independence, Falun Gong and criticism of the Chinese communist system also scrubbed from TikTok feeds, a fact company executives have proved reluctant to talk about, the report said.
With lawmakers breathing down their backs, the job of TikTok executives is now to prove to US regulators its promise that US user data "does not leave the United States," said Patil.
"If they are able to provide the necessary transparency to verify that claim from the points of view of business operations as well as technical implementation on the backend, that might help," he said. "Another option is to create a separate company based in the United States that is not connected in any way to an entity based in China," Patil said, according to the report.