AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Last Wednesday, the Biden administration demanded that Chinese-owned company TikTok sell its stakes in the social media app, or else it will be banned in the United States.
The demands come amid security concerns about the video-sharing app, specifically that the Chinese government could use the app to gain access to Americans’ personal data.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew insisted Thursday that America’s concerns are overblown and that forcing the app’s Chinese parent company, Bytedance, to sell it would not solve the U.S. and other governments’ national security concerns. Zi Chew said his company has its own plans to address privacy concerns.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan said in a statement to The Hill, which is owned by Nexstar.
Despite this, several lawmakers on Capitol Hill are continuing to push legislation that would ban the app for Americans. This effort has been spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who chairs the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In an interview with Nexstar, McCaul said he would feel more comfortable if TikTok was owned by an American company.
“TikTok poses a national security threat,” McCaul said. “It’s a backdoor into your phone — I would say it’s a spy balloon into your phone — where they can capture data keystrokes, passwords, they can actually do algorithms to message in certain ways to use it as a propaganda tool.”
McCaul supports the efforts by President Joe Biden, saying that the administration needs to continually scrutinize social media apps.
“We give authority to the president to ban it if he deems it in the national security interest. I think that’s a smart way to do it,” he said. “The prior administration tried to ban it, but the courts found did not have the legal authority to do. So we give the president the legal authority if he deems international security best interest.”
McCaul said he expects there would be interest from U.S. companies to develop an alternative to TikTok.
“It’d be great to see an American version of this come out,” McCaul said. “There are some great innovators, I know, to have a TikTok-like app out there that could be as popular.”