ICYMI – Sullivan “Presses for ‘Crucial’ Hearing on TikTok Influence as Congress Weighs Ban”

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) sent a letter today, calling for hearings and potential congressional action on TikTok, related to privacy issues, national security concerns, and troubling influence over our children associated with the platform. The letter was sent to the chair and presumed ranking member of the CST Committee, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), respectively. The Washington Examiner published an exclusive story on the letter.

Excerpts from the story can be found below. To read the full story, click here.


Republican senator presses for 'crucial' hearing on TikTok influence as Congress weighs ban

Washington Examiner

By Gabe Kaminsky

January 11, 2023


EXCLUSIVE — A Republican senator is calling for a hearing on TikTok and its associated "persistent privacy issues, national security concerns, and troubling influence" over children as lawmakers continue to crack down on the Chinese-government-linked app.

President Joe Biden approved a TikTok ban in December for government devices, which, as a policy, has been mirrored in over one dozen states, and Congress is eyeing legislation that would ban the app in the United States. Now, over one year after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on TikTok and its risks, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is pressing his colleagues for a swift follow-up, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner.

"In 2020, former President Trump tried to ban the application in the U.S," Sullivan wrote on Wednesday to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the committee, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the committee's ranking member. "Now, there is a growing bipartisan recognition of the problem and momentum for further congressional scrutiny."

. . .

"TikTok’s malfeasance and record of suspicious activity are mounting," Cruz told the Washington Examiner. "We absolutely should hold a hearing forcing them to answer hard questions under oath. Since their last appearance before Congress, concerns about TikTok — their privacy policies, their ties to China and the CCP, the way the CCP uses the app to spy on everyone from dissidents to journalists, and the app’s mental health impacts — have only grown."

"I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Commerce Committee to shine a light on TikTok’s actions and hold them accountable," Cruz added.

Sullivan's letter cites how FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the House Homeland Security Committee in November 2022 that the bureau is "extremely concerned" about TikTok and its U.S. operations. The Chinese Communist Party may have the ability to use TikTok in order to obtain data on millions of users, compromise devices, and manipulate algorithms to influence children, Wray said in the hearing.

In December 2022, Sullivan voted in favor of the TikTok ban affecting roughly 4 million government devices. The same month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) put forth a bipartisan bill that would ban the app from the U.S.

The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that TikTok and ByteDance lobbyists have visited the White House at least eight times between July 2021 and August 2022. That lobbying army includes former members of Congress and former congressional staffers who are both Democrats and Republicans.

"We would welcome the opportunity to brief Sen. Sullivan on our comprehensive plans to address the very concerns his letter raises about TikTok," Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, told the Washington Examiner.

"We believe those concerns can be fully resolved, and CFIUS is currently considering a comprehensive solution that addresses key issues of corporate governance, content recommendation and moderation, and data security and access."

. . .

"In light of these renewed bipartisan concerns, and the repeated misrepresentations by TikTok regarding data security and its privacy practices, I urge you to hold a hearing on the risks that Americans, especially our children, face using this platform," wrote Sullivan in his letter. "The American people need to understand the ramifications of using this application.

"Such a hearing would serve as a crucial public forum to gather information as Congress and other policymakers consider this important issue," he added.  

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