The controversial video-sharing platform TikTok has confirmed that its application has grown to 150 million monthly active users in the United States, a 50 percent increase from the 100 million reported in 2020.
The revelation comes as Congress and the White House consider banning the application over evidence that the Chinese Communist Party uses it as a spying tool.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as Congress mounts scrutiny over the company.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives gave authorization to the Biden administration to ban the app on national security grounds, while a growing number of Senators have also backed the move. The app is also banned on all official U.S. government devices.
Among those sponsoring the legislation is the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Democrat Mark Warner, who said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that he did not believe data of U.S. users was secure.
“This notional idea that the data can be made safe under (Chinese Communist Party) law, just doesn’t, doesn’t pass the smell test,” he said.
TikTok continues to deny all spying allegations and insists that it has invested over $1.5 billion in rigorous data security efforts. The company has also rejected demands by the Biden administration for its Chinese owners to divest their stake in the app to ease concerns of U.S. lawmakers.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” the company said last week. “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that Republican aides are predicting that the company is likely to avoid or play down other issues surrounding the app, including “allegations of sexual abuse targeting minors on the platform, children who died after attempting to TikTok challenges and teenagers who died of fentanyl overdoses.”
The company is also expected to tout its popularity among the younger generations, with some prominent TikTok creators also ready to come to Washington this week to discuss the importance of keeping the app available.
The aide explained:
These are all problems and major concerns that the committee has raised…and we have yet to receive adequate answers for how it plans to address the issues and keep children safe. They’ve clearly recognized that they can’t convince the Biden administration, the various national security agencies or Congress that TikTok is not an immediate threat to American interests and national security. So instead they’re pivoting to attempt to use the court of public opinion and TikTok’s popularity with younger generations to try to make it politically toxic to ban the app.
The White House has repeatedly refused to give details about its plans. All that is known for certain is that TikTok has been negotiating with CFIUS — a group composed of the Departments of Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, and Commerce, among others — for over two years on a deal that would allow the company to continue operating in the U.S. market and satisfy both sides.
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