Why the U.S. Is Weighing Whether to Ban TikTok – The New York Times

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Lawmakers in numerous countries have expressed concerns that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, may endanger sensitive user data.

Over the last year, lawmakers in the United States, Europe and Canada have escalated efforts to restrict access to TikTok, the popular short-form video app that is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, citing security threats.

The White House told federal agencies in February 2023 that they had 30 days to delete the app from government devices, and various cities have barred government workers from downloading it. The next month, House lawmakers grilled TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Chew, for roughly five hours about the app’s relationship to its parent company and China’s potential influence over the platform.

In March 2024, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a bill calling for TikTok to cut ties with its parent company within six months or face a ban in the United States. A full House vote could happen in the middle of the month. The bill has been endorsed by the White House.

Here’s why the pressure has been ratcheted up on TikTok.

It all comes down to China.

Lawmakers and regulators in the West have increasingly expressed concern that TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, may put sensitive user data, like location information, into the hands of the Chinese government. They have pointed to laws that allow the Chinese government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering operations. They are also worried that China could use TikTok’s content recommendations for misinformation, a concern that has escalated in the United States during the Israel-Hamas war. Critics say that TikTok has fueled the spread of antisemitism and promoted pro-Palestinian content to American users.

TikTok has long denied such allegations and has tried to distance itself from ByteDance.

India banned the platform in mid-2020, costing ByteDance one of its biggest markets, as the government cracked down on 59 Chinese-owned apps, claiming that they were secretly transmitting users’ data to servers outside India.

Other countries and government bodies — including Britain and its Parliament, Australia, Canada, the executive arm of the European Union, France and New Zealand’s Parliament — have banned the app from official devices.

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