TikTok’s leader Alex Zhu will meet with lawmakers in Washington next week to address concerns that the short video platform’s Chinese ties pose censorship, privacy, and national security risks, the Washington Post reported.

Why it matters: A number of American lawmakers, such as Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Republican Senator John Hawley, have been questioning privacy and security risks TikTok poses as a Chinese-owned app that is virally popular in the US.

  • Bytedance has been moving to separate TikTok from its Chinese operations, with plans to set up a US data management team that will control access that its China-based engineers have to TikTok’s database.

Details: The planned trip, which was confirmed by multiple people familiar with the matter, will be Zhu’s first known visit to Capitol Hill.

  • Zhu has sought a meeting with Republican Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio.
  • The TikTok leader is also expected to meet separately with Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, who pressed TikTok to improve its protection of children’s privacy.
  • TikTok expanded its team of lobbyists at Capitol Hill in advance of Zhu’s visit to stress that the app isn’t censoring content at the request of the Chinese government and that it protects user data.
  • In a statement to the Washington Post, Senator Tom Cotton said that TikTok has to completely separate from Bytedance to move forward in the US.

Context: At the request of Senator Marco Rubio, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in November launched an investigation into TikTok’s 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly. The probe is currently focused on TikTok’s handling of personal data.

  • Also in November, Senator Schumer raised concerns about the US Army’s use of TikTok to recruit teenagers, citing potential national security risks.
  • In response, the US Army started a security assessment of TikTok later last month.

US senator warns Army about using TikTok for recruitment

Tony Xu

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail: tony.xu@technode.com

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