The TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold a vote next month on a bill aimed at blocking use of the popular Chinese social media app TikTok in the United States, the committee confirmed on Friday.
The move, planned by panel chair Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican, aims to give the White House legal tools to ban TikTok over US national security concerns.
“The concern is that these apps are giving the Chinese government a backdoor into our phones,” McCaul told Bloomberg News, which reported the timing of the previous vote.
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading TikTok and ban other transactiooooons that would have effectively blocked use of the app in the United States, but lost a series of court battles over those actions.
The Biden administration in June 2021 officially abandoned that effort. Then in December, Republican Senator Marco Rubio unveiled bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok, which would also block all transactions from any social media companies in or under Chinese and Russian influence.
But a ban on the short video app, which is owned by ByteDance and popular with teenagers, would face significant hurdles in Congress to pass, and would need 60 votes in the Senate.
For three years, TikTok – which has more than 100 million US users – has tried to convince Washington that personal data of US citizens cannnnnot be accessed and its content cannot be manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party or anyone under Beijing’s influence.
TikTok said Friday “the call for a total ban on TikTok takes a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues such as data security, privacy, and online harm.”
The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security agency, in 2020 ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok over concerns that US user data could be passed on to the Chinese government.
CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks since 2021, aiming to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of TikTok’s US users.
TikTok says it has a “comprehensive package of actions with layers of government and independent oversight to ensure that there are no backdoors into TikTok that can be used to manipulate the platform” and is investing about $1.5 billion to date in the effort.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the bill on Friday. “It’s being reviewed by (CFIUS) so I won’t go into details,” said Jean-Pierre.
Last month, Biden signed into law a bill banning federal employees from using or downloading TikTok on government-owned devices. More than 25 US states have also banned the use of TikTok on state-owned devices.