In a rare bipartisan effort, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are leading a new charge against ByteDance Technology — the Beijing-based parent company of video app TikTok.
After noting TikTok has been downloaded by more than 110 million U.S. consumers, Senator Schumer tweeted on Thursday: “It’s required to adhere to Chinese law. That means it can be compelled to cooperate with intelligence work controlled by China’s Communist Party.”
As such, Sens. Schumer and Cotton are requesting U.S. intelligence officials assess TikiTok’s U.S. presence — and the degree to which it poses a security risk to the country.
The request comes just weeks after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) called for a formal investigation into TikTok.
Rubio said he wanted a U.S. national security panel to review TikTok’s acquisition by ByteDance in 2017. At the time, the app was named Musical.ly.
Rubio also said he wanted the panel to determine the degree to which ByteDance is censoring politically sensitive content, which he considers to be a national security risk.
Late last month, it emerged that TikTok has a history of censuring political dissenters in its home country of China.
According to internal documents obtained by The Guardian, the app had instructed content moderators to scrub mentions of Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, and other topics the Chinese government would rather not see discussed in the public arena.
In response, ByteDance insisting the content guidelines obtained by The Guardian were dated, and no longer used by its moderators.
Taking on more established video-sharing platforms, TikTok has become one of the most downloaded offerings on Apple’s App Store. Unless TikTok is sidelined by U.S. policymakers, analysts see the app as posing a real threat to more established players.
Specifically, TikTok could challenge Snapchat, eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson recently speculated.
For better or for worse, TikTok is generating a lot of buzz.
In June, Talkwalker said it detected 2.6 million mentions of the app, which was up by about 62% since January, according to the social analytics firm.