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As anti-China Republicans gain more influence in Congress and seek stricter oversight of the hugely popular video sharing app, TikTok in the US faces an uncertain year.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has become a political punching bag for US conservatives who claim that the app, which millions of US teenagers have downloaded, can be used by the Chinese Communist Party for espionage or propaganda (CCP).
But now that Democrats have joined the chorus of protest, US President Joe Biden this week approved a new regulation that forbids the use of TikTok on devices that are provided by the government. TikTok use is likewise prohibited by law in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
According to Republican lawmaker Mike Gallagher, one of the most outspoken opponents of China in Congress, TikTok is the equivalent of “digital fentanyl.”
The damaging effects of persistent social media use, particularly on young men and women in America, are troublingly documented, he told NBC News. “It’s incredibly addicting and harmful,” he said.
We have to consider whether we want the CCP to have control over what is teetering on the verge of overtaking all other media companies in America, Gallagher told NBC.
According to a TikTok spokesman, Gallagher’s remarks have “zero veracity” and the CCP “has neither direct nor indirect influence of ByteDance or TikTok.”
The national law is in line with numerous government use restrictions at the state and local levels, and TikTok USA is currently fighting for its existence as a Chinese-owned business with a growing likelihood that it will have to divest from ByteDance in order to continue appearing on US smartphones.
Earlier than Biden joined office and adopted a less extreme stance, former president Donald Trump urged that TikTok activities in the US be sold to a US business, Oracle.
But last month, ByteDance was forced to acknowledge that staff members inappropriately accessed TikTok data to track journalists in an effort to find the source of leaks to the media. As a result, the perception of TikTok significantly declined.
The criticism has also spread to other Western nations, with French President Emmanuel Macron accusing the Chinese social network last month of restricting material and fostering young people’s addiction to the internet.
TikTok has spent months working with the covert interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to try and reach a long-term agreement (CFIUS).
According to reports, a long-term agreement between TikTok and the Biden administration that would have specified stringent protections for US users’ data was about to be announced.
Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, said that the CFIUS solution is “a comprehensive package of measures with layers of government and independent oversight…well beyond what any peer firm is doing now.”
But despite public condemnation, FBI Director Christopher Wray has maintained that he still views TikTok as a threat to national security.
TikTok vehemently refutes any restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.