Six more senators back bill to give Biden new powers to ban TikTok

Six more US senators on Friday backed bipartisan legislation that would give President Joe Biden new powers to ban the Chinese video app TikTok on national security grounds, as the Chinese company scrambled to get its story heard in Washington ahead of key hearings next week.

Earlier this month, 12 senators, led by Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Thune, introduced White House-backed legislation to give the Commerce Department new powers over TikTok, which has more than 100 million US users.

The announcement comes after TikTok said this week that the Biden administration is requiring its Chinese owners to divest their stake in the company or it could face a possible US ban.

Biden’s predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, tried to ban TikTok in 2020, but was blocked by US courts.

The legislation, RESTRICT from Risky Information and Communications Technologies (RESTRICT), now has nine Republican and nine Democratic co-sponsors to address concerns that the data of US users of ByteDance-owned TikTok could be transferred to China to the government.

Separately, a source confirmed to Reuters on Friday that the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation after ByteDance said in December that some employees improperly accessed the data of two US TikTok journalists.

Reuters reported in December that four ByteDance employees involved in the incident had been fired, including two in China and two in the United States. Company officials said they are taking extra steps to protect user data.

ByteDance employees accessed the data as part of a failed effort to investigate the company’s leaks earlier this year and aimed to uncover possible connections between the two journalists.

TikTok Chief Executive Officer Zhou Zichu will appear before Congress for the first time when he testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.

TikTok said content creators will come to Washington next week to discuss why the app should not be banned. “Washington lawmakers considering TikTok need to hear immediately from the people whose lives will be directly affected by their decisions,” TikTok said Friday.

By David Shepardson and Echo Wang; Editor: Diane Craft

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