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'Break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access', say US lawmakers seeking TikTok ban

'Break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access', say US lawmakers seeking TikTok ban

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US lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a new bipartisan bill that would give China's ByteDance 165 days, or the equivalent of six months, to divest TikTok or face a ban in the US, according to a statement by the Select Committee on the CCP.

If enacted, TikTok will no longer be available in app stores or accessible on US-based web hosting services. This is unless it severs ties to entities such as ByteDance.

Don't miss: What are Singaporeans making of the questioning of TikTok CEO? 

Chairman Mike Gallagher said:

This is my message to TikTok: break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users.

“America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States. TikTok’s time in the United States is over unless it ends its relationship with CCP-controlled ByteDance,” Gallagher added. 

The bill, which 19 lawmakers have signed so far, is to address the national security risks posed by other applications controlled by foreign adversary companies. 

Such apps, according to the lawmakers, allow adversaries to surveil and influence the American public through the data users produce, and the information users share and consume. 

"Not only is the CCP-controlled TikTok an immense national security risk to our country, but it is also poisoning the minds of our youth every day on a massive scale," said Rep. Chip Roy.

China is our enemy, and we need to start acting like it. This legislation will make our country better off and more secure.

“Any technology—apps, software, language models—owned by foreign adversaries are unequivocal threats to our national security. We have every right to protect Americans’ constitutional rights, data privacy, and national security, and it’s only become clear over the last several years how dangerous these foreign-owned tech platforms truly are,” added Rep. Kt Cammack. 

The penalty for an app store that violates the law would be calculated by multiplying the number of US users that accessed, maintained, or updated the foreign adversary app by US$5,000, according to The Verge

The bill, however, will not be taken against individual users of an impacted act. The lawmakers added that the legislation does not regulate speech as it is focused entirely on foreign adversary control. 

"This bill is an outright ban of TikTok, no matter how much the authors try to disguise it. This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs," said a TikTok spokesperson when MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out. 

This comes shortly after TikTok's CEO, Chew Shou Zi, was questioned a few weeks ago on his nationality and his potential links to the Chinese Communist Party. Chew was speaking alongside executives of other major tech giants such as Meta, X and Snap which were testifying before US lawmakers on the harm social media can do to children.

During the hearing, what stood out was that Chew was questioned repeatedly on his nationality and if he has any affiliations to the Chinese Communist Party by Senator Tom Cotton.

During the hearing, Cotton asked what nation Chew was a citizen of. Chew confirmed that he is Singaporean and that being so, he was unable to hold a dual citizenship in any other country. However, he was pressed by Cotton about this point and asked if he has ever applied for a Chinese citizenship. 

When Chew said no, Cotton pressed him and asked if he had ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party. Chew again affirmed that he is Singaporean and that to be part of the Chinese Communist Party, you need to be a Chinese citizen.

In March last year, Chew also fought for his app's life in an almost five-hour congressional hearing. In the hearing, Chew worked hard to convince US lawmakers that TikTok does not sell data to the Chinese government, uses controls to protect younger users from harmful or inappropriate content, and takes sufficient steps to protect the mental health of the young with controls.

Never dropping his composure, Chew appeared unfazed last year throughout the marathon questioning and was able to calmly respond to questions such as if TikTok accesses the home Wi-Fi network of users – a question posed by Republican Richard Hudson.

In response to Hudson’s question last year, Chew noted that TikTok could only access the Wi-Fi network if a user turns on their Wi-Fi.

“So, if I have the TikTok app on my phone and my phone is on my home Wi-Fi network, does TikTok access that network?” Hudson asked in a clip seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.

“It would have to access the network to get connections to the Internet, if that's the question,” replied Chew. Hudson went on to ask if it was possible for TikTok to access other devices on that home Wi-Fi network.

“Congressman, we do not do anything that is beyond any industry norms. I believe the answer to your question is no. It could be technical. Let me get back to you," Chew said calmly.

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