Tom Cotton, Chuck Schumer Request Intel Assessment on China’s TikTok App

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., interrupts a fellow senator during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee for CIA nominee Gina Haspel, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 9, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence this week that the intelligence community needs to examine if the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok is a threat to national security.

The Washington Post reports that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to investigate the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to determine if it poses “national security risks.”

“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” wrote Schumer and Cotton, who currently sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.”

TikTok published a response to this in an unsigned blog post in which the company stressed its independence from China. The firm stated that it is not “subject to Chinese law,” and stressed that it has “never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked.”

The senators stated that they feared that TikTok would be forced to adhere to Chinese laws which would “compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” Schumer and Cotton worried that TikTok could be a “potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 2016 election on U.S.-based social media platforms.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently called on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review the acquisition of social media app Musical.ly by TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. over claims that TikTok is used by the Chinese government to censor certain political content.

Rubio stated in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that Chinese-owned apps “are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party.” The Treasury secretary heads the CFIUS, which reviews mergers such as that of Musical.ly and TikTok to ensure that they do not damage national security.

Rubio stated that there was evidence that TikTok in the United States was censoring political content that was “not in line” with the Chinese government. Rubio stated that China “is using these apps to advance their foreign policy and globally suppress freedom of speech, expression, and other freedoms that we as Americans so deeply cherish.” In one example, TikTok has blacklisted popular Christian app pray.com from advertising on its app.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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