As suspicions surrounding the app’s ties to China continue to increase, TikTok chief Alex Zhu will meet with legislators in Washington, D.C. next week. U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has been an outspoken critic of the tech industry and especially TikTok, will meet with the executive, CNBC reported.
Blackburn told Zhu in a letter in November that she worries the social media app “is paving the way for the Chinese government to gain unfettered and unsupervised access to our children’s lives.” (The app is popular with a younger audience and is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese firm.)
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told CNBC last week that the army has “immediately” prohibited soldiers from using TikTok following a national security concern that came to his attention earlier in 2019. McCarthy said Army Cyber Command is helping in a review into possible vulnerabilities.
As it stands, TikTok is encountering much U.S. government oversight. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) has formally rolled out a national security review formally into the company’s acquisition of TikTok precursor Musical.ly.
The review came after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reportedly wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that “ample and growing evidence” exists “that TikTok’s platform for Western markets, including the U.S., is censoring content that is not in line with the Chinese Government and Communist Party directives.”
TikTok, according to the outlet, has rejected the plausibility of the government of China tapping into the information of its U.S. users. And the company has reportedly insisted it does not censor platform content to appease Chinese officials.
The latest developments follow news that TikTok reportedly wants to distance itself from its Chinese roots, with employees and advisors coming up with suggestions for rebranding strategies in that direction. TikTok is facing mounting pressure from lawmakers as well as regulators in the U.S., and the firm has reportedly been having meetings about whether to rebrand.
Some executives say expanding into a Southeast Asia nation such as Singapore would help. TikTok has also gotten rid of a lot of the Chinese content that shows up on the app.