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US Senators Outline TikTok National Security Fears

Brace yourselves: Another TikTok hearing could happen.

Is TikTok a national security threat or a toxic digital wasteland filled with vacuous content? Recently, the website has been front and center in the nation’s capital as both sides of the aisle have launched a crusade to ban the video-based application. While critics warn of the “Trojan horse” outlined in the legislation, proponents argue that it is vital to protect the country from foreign adversaries. But do the platform’s social media challenges, in-car rants about being misgendered, and pranks pose a clear and present danger to the United States?

Senators Receive TikTok Briefing

US national security officials from the Department of Justice, FBI, and Office of the Director of Intelligence held a March 20 closed-door, classified briefing with senators on the Commerce and Intelligence committees. The meeting was hosted by committee chairs Mark Warner (D-VA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and top Republican ranking members Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). The briefing came soon after the lower chamber overwhelmingly voted for legislation mandating China-based ByteDance sell TikTok within six months or face a ban.

Despite a deeply divided upper chamber, remarks coming out of the classified briefing on Capitol Hill suggest that Republicans and Democrats believe TikTok threatens millions of US users. They argue that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is exploiting the social media platform as a propaganda tool and could employ this instrument heading into the 2024 election in November.

“TikTok is a gun aimed at Americans’ heads,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) stated. “The Chinese communists are weaponizing information that they are constantly surreptitiously collecting from 170 million Americans and potentially aiming that information using it through algorithms at the core of American democracy.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) reiterated the same concerns, calling TikTok “a grave national security threat” to the American people, their privacy, and user data. He added: ” TikTok and ByteDance and Chinese leaders go to great lengths to try to conceal what they’re doing. But it’s clear right there in the terms and conditions what they can do. And it’s clear from two weeks ago how TikTok is used to try to influence American politics.”

Cruz, who urged Cantwell to oversee a mark-up of the House bill immediately, noted that the Chinese TikTok champions education, hard work, and discipline. However, the CCP has designed the US version to push “things to our kids like self-harm and suicide” and “trying to get our kids to chew on Tide pods.”

Cantwell told reporters that she is thinking about holding a public hearing on the TikTok legislation. Despite many claims against TikTok, the company says it has invested $1.5 billion to protect US data and place it in the world’s largest economy.

Steven Mnuchin Saves America?

Shortly after the House voted 352-65 on March 13 to rein in TikTok, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed to CNBC that he is assembling an investor group to acquire TikTok. The ex-Trump administration official agreed that the legislation should pass and that the social media platform needs to be sold. “It’s a great business and I’m going to put together a group to buy TikTok,” he said. “This should be owned by US businesses. There’s no way that the Chinese would ever let a U.S. company own something like this in China.”

One Democrat was unhappy about the news. In an interview with Semafor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) explained that he does not understand how the US would be more secure if TikTok’s new owner “is a MAGA Trump crony backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. While he is worried about Beijing’s access to Americans’ data, the Senate Finance Committee Chair is equally worried about a Saudi government that murdered a Washington Post journalist after planting spyware on his wife’s phone.”

Trump had been a staunch critic of TikTok, going as far as trying to ban the website when he was president. However, he has had a change of heart, writing on Truth Social that removing TikTok would allow “Facebook and Zuckerschumck” to “double their business.” He further wrote: “I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!”

Meanwhile, Mnuchin appears to be saving America one company at a time. The movie mogul could onshore the platform if there are legitimate national security concerns. Additionally, Mnuchin and a group of investors prevented another banking crisis by purchasing New York Community Bank. Not all heroes wear capes.

The Bells Toll for the World Wide Web?

As Liberty Nation reported, the chief concern in the bill to ban TikTok or force a sale is that there is a provision extending broader powers to the federal government. The legislation allows the president to shut down or regulate websites identified to be “foreign adversary controlled applications” that include “a website, desktop application, mobile application, or augmented or immersive technology application.” Some, including billionaire Elon Musk, have likened this to “censorship and government control.” With both sides of the aisle engaging in a temporary kumbaya moment, most senators and representatives do not appear to be listening.

Read More From Andrew Moran

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