Two United States senators have initiated an inquiry into the recent recruitment of high-ranking executives from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, by the famous short video-sharing platform TikTok.
Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, conveyed their concerns to TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, in a letter issued on Tuesday. In their communication, they voiced apprehensions regarding the autonomy of TikTok’s operations and safeguarding American users’ data.
With over 150 million Americans using TikTok, the platform has been under the scrutiny of US lawmakers who have expressed worries about potential Chinese government influence, even calling for a nationwide ban. The recent staff transitions have raised suspicions that TikTok may seek to maintain ByteDance’s sway over its operations while evading scrutiny.
The senators have requested a comprehensive explanation of the security measures imposed on ByteDance employees relocating from China to the United States.
While there have been endeavors to grant the Biden administration expanded authority to prohibit TikTok, these efforts have encountered obstacles in Congress. Senator Maria Cantwell, in collaboration with the White House and fellow legislators, has been crafting an amended bill to address concerns not only about TikTok but also other foreign-owned applications.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who previously attempted to pass legislation for a TikTok ban in May, intends to push for a vote on the matter later this year, asserting, “We need to revisit this issue, and we need to implement a ban.” He further lamented TikTok’s extensive lobbying efforts that have impeded legislative progress.
In 2020, the then-US President, Donald Trump, aimed to halt new downloads of TikTok and WeChat, another Chinese-owned app owned by Tencent. However, a series of court decisions thwarted the enforcement of these bans.
Additionally, TikTok is embroiled in a legal battle against the state of Montana, which has slated a ban to take effect on January 1. A court hearing is scheduled for October 12 regarding TikTok’s lawsuit.