Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner this week praised former President Donald Trump’s strong stand against TikTok’s ties to communist China.
Warner, D-Va., told an Australian newspaper Tuesday during a visit to the country that TikTok posed privacy and national security concerns to the American public.
“This is not something you would normally hear me say, but Donald Trump was right on TikTok years ago,” Warner told The Sidney Morning Herald. “If your country uses Huawei, if your kids are on TikTok … the ability for China to have undue influence is a much greater challenge and a much more immediate threat than any kind of actual, armed conflict.”
Trump, who seems likely to mount another presidential bid in 2024, spoke out against TikTok during his tenure in the White House. The former president issued an executive order in August 2020 banning the app from online stores within the U.S. unless TikTok ended its relationship with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
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The executive order was halted by a federal judge before being revoked by President Biden last year. Biden has ordered the Commerce Department to review the national security threat posed by apps developed in foreign nations deemed to be adversaries, including China.
Since the review was launched, Biden has conducted several interviews with social media influencers with large followings on TikTok. The move has drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers who say the president should be doing more to combat Chinese aggression.
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“I told everyone years ago TikTok was a tool of communist China,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “And yet Biden invites TikTok ‘influencers’ to the White House.”
GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight and Energy and Commerce committees sent a letter to TikTok over the summer requesting documents and communications detailing its relationship with ByteDance. The Beijing-based technology conglomerate is TikTok’s parent company and has come under scrutiny in recent years for its close working relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
“The data collected by TikTok on U.S. users, such as browsing and search history, biometrics, location data, and other metadata, would be a massive national security risk in the hands of CCP intelligence,” the lawmakers wrote.
A recent BuzzFeed report based on more than 80 internal conversations with TikTok employees revealed that ByteDance accessed the user data of American subscribers. In some cases, ByteDance even had access when employees from TikTok’s U.S. division did not.
TikTok has said the story presents an inaccurate picture of its data-sharing policies.
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“For two years, we’ve talked openly about our work to limit access to user data across regions and keep U.S. user data secure,” a spokesman for the company said. “It is unfortunate that BuzzFeed cherry-picked quotes from meetings about those very efforts and failed to provide adequate context. We look forward to meeting with members of Congress to correct the record on BuzzFeed’s misleading reporting.”
TikTok did not respond to a request for comment on this story.