Tech

Rubio Demands Biden Ban TikTok Over Chinese Communist Party Connection

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Ailan Evans Tech Reporter
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Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday called for the banning of Chinese video sharing platform TikTok after China acquired a stake and board seat in a subsidiary of the platform’s parent company.

Rubio issued a statement demanding President Joe Biden block the app from U.S. mobile devices, citing the Chinese government’s recent acquisition of a 1% stake and one of three board seats in Beijing ByteDance Technology, a subsidiary of TikTok parent company ByteDance. The subsidiary owns licenses to operate video-sharing platform Douyin and news service Toutiao within China.

“The Biden Administration can no longer pretend that TikTok is not beholden to the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said. “President Biden must take immediate action to remove ByteDance and TikTok from the equation.”

The Trump administration attempted to ban TikTok in August 2020, claiming China was using the app to illegally harvest user data, but the ban was never enforced due to several court orders. Biden repealed the ban in June 2021, instead directing the Commerce Department to evaluate the platform and determine whether it posed a national security or economic risk. (RELATED: China Lauds Biden’s TikTok Executive Order, Calling It A ‘Positive Step’)

A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing on September 16, 2020. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing on September 16, 2020. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

The app has attracted controversy over the past few years due to repeated privacy violations, paying a $5.7 million fine tp the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in February 2019 for illegally collecting data on children. The platform also settled a $92 million class action lawsuit in February 2021 over allegations it harvested and shared personal information without users’ consent.

The app updated its privacy policy in June 2021 to allow itself to collect users’ voiceprints, faceprints and other biometric data. The app has roughly 100 million monthly users in the U.S., mostly under the age of 30.

“Even before today, it was clear that TikTok represented a serious threat to personal privacy and U.S. national security,” Rubio said. “Beijing’s aggressiveness makes clear that the regime sees TikTok as an extension of the party-state, and the U.S. needs to treat it that way.”

Rubio proposed legislation in October 2020 imposing additional regulations on foreign apps, such as TikTok and Chinese messaging app WeChat, and removing their Section 230 liability protections.

“We must also establish a framework of standards that must be met before a high-risk, foreign-based app is allowed to operate on American telecommunications networks and devices,” he said.

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