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Lawmakers unveiled legislation to ban the video sharing app TikTok from the US on Tuesday over fears that its Chinese owners could be spying on American users.

The Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) would ban all operations by any social media company in or under the influence of China and Russia.

It has the backing of Republicans as well as Democrats, in a sign of how the app has triggered alarm across party lines that Chinese spies can access American smartphones.  

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who introduced the bill in Senate, said Chinese law meant the app’s owner, ByteDance, was required to hand data to the Chinese Communist Party. 

'The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,' said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as he launched the bill

‘The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,’ said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as he launched the bill

Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois (left) and Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who both sit on the House intelligence committee

‘The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,’ he said. 

‘This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day. We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China.’

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The Beijing-based owners of the app are already locked in dispute with the federal government over how it uses and stores user data, amid concerns that it could be deployed in influence operations. 

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who co-sponsored the bill in the House, said: ‘TikTok is digital fentanyl that’s addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news.’

While Republicans have often been loudest to warn of the digital threat from China, the bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois.

‘At a time when the Chinese Communist Party and our other adversaries abroad are seeking any advantage they can find against the United States through espionage and mass surveillance, it is imperative that we do not allow hostile powers to potentially control social media networks that could be easily weaponized against us,’ he said. 

‘The bipartisan ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act is a strong step in protecting our nation from the nefarious digital surveillance and influence operations of totalitarian regimes.’ 

The Beijing-based owners of TikTok are locked in dispute with the federal government over how it uses and stores user data, amid concerns it could be deployed in influence operations

The Beijing-based owners of TikTok are locked in dispute with the federal government over how it uses and stores user data, amid concerns it could be deployed in influence operations

The Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) would ban all operations by any social media company in or under the influence of China and Russia.

The Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) would ban all operations by any social media company in or under the influence of China and Russia.

Their move follows weeks of heightened scrutiny of the app. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress last month that the Chinese government could use it to ‘control data collection of millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which can be used for influence operations.’

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He has also warned that it could be used to hijack other software on the phone, potentially allowing it to collect and send more data. 

Such is the level of concern that five states have now barred employees from downloading the app.

Alabama and Utah banned staff from using TikTok on state devices on Monday, following similar action by South Dakota, Texas and Maryland.

‘Disturbingly, TikTok harvests vast amounts of data, much of which has no legitimate connection to the app’s supposed purpose of video sharing,’ said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in a Monday memo announcing the ban. 

‘Use of TikTok involving state IT infrastructure thus creates an unacceptable vulnerability to Chinese infiltration operations.’

Other states could follow suit.

Last week Wisconsin‘s Republican lawmakers wrote to their Democratic governor on Tuesday to demand that the state bans employees from TikTok to protect from the risk of Chinese spyware. 

They urged Gov. Tony Evers to lead by example and delete the app from his own phone. 

Wisconsin's DC lawmakers, including Rep. Mike Gallagher, wrote to the governor

Sen. Ron Johnson

Wisconsin’s DC lawmakers, including Rep. Mike Gallagher (left), who sits on the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Ron Johnson wrote to the state’s governor to demand that he ditch TikTok from his phone and ban state employees from using it

They demanded that Gov. Tony Evers (seen here on his TikTok account) ditch the app over fears that it could be used by the Chinese government to collect data on users

They demanded that Gov. Tony Evers (seen here on his TikTok account) ditch the app over fears that it could be used by the Chinese government to collect data on users

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