'Looking ... to use our own data against us': Krishnamoorthi explains proposal to ban China's TikTok

Editor's note: This version corrects the name of the Chinese party.

Democratic congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg this week joined two Republican colleagues in the House in co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would ban the popular video-sharing app TikTok in the U.S.

Krishnamoorthi told the Daily Herald on Thursday, just as the U.S. Senate approved a bill banning TikTok from government devices, that he supports the House bill because TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that has allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party and that documents show has plans to track Americans.

"It is important to recognize that this is not just a theoretical possibility" Krishnamoorthi said. "In October, Forbes came out with a report, based on internal documents from ByteDance's Internal Audit and Risk Control department, that the company had planned to use the app to monitor the personal locations of individual Americans for surveillance purposes unrelated to advertising or its business goals."

FBI Director Chris Wray and other government officials have expressed concerns that TikTok is a threat to users' and national security because it is controlled by a Chinese government that, they say, doesn't share America's values.

Testifying at a Senate hearing in September, TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas said the company protects American users' data and Chinese government officials have no access to it.

But Krishnamoorthi said there are reasons not to take that answer at face value. While there have been privacy concerns surrounding other social media apps, TikTok's being owned by ByteDance makes the app unique, he said.

Information the U.S. has on ByteDance's leaders suggests many of them have no issue helping the Chinese government, he said.

"In fact, an investigation into ByteDance executives found LinkedIn profiles revealing that 23 of the company's directors previously worked for CCP propaganda outlets, and at least 15 ByteDance employees currently work for them," Krishnamoorthi said. "On top of that, ByteDance's editor-in-chief, who is also the secretary of its internal CCP committee, has publicly stated that the committee would 'take the lead' in 'all product lines and business lines' to guarantee that the company's products have 'correct political direction.'"

Krishnamoorthi said the most serious risks of China's exploitation of Americans through TikTok lie in the app's ability to track their physical locations and online activities, which could result in industrial espionage or direct threats to national security.

"As for the likelihood of those risks, we already know ByteDance has developed plans to track the locations of individual Americans through the app, and if they have not begun to do so already, it is likely only a matter of time," he said.

Krishnamoorthi addressed potential criticisms of the bill as an example of government overreach, akin to how Russia controls its citizens' perception of the war in Ukraine.

"Let's be clear about what this bill aims to do," he said. "This bill bars TikTok and other social media companies controlled by foreign adversaries from operating in the United States as long as their U.S. operations are owned, controlled or heavily influenced by those hostile regimes, such as the People's Republic of China - countries that we know are looking for ways to use our own data against us.

"Our legislation would only ban TikTok in the U.S. if these security threats are not addressed."

Krishnamoorthi acknowledged that TikTok has a lot of fans who just want to keep using the app, but he said that is why it's important to address and eliminate the security risks.

One solution, he said, is removing TikTok's U.S. operations from the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

"As soon as such changes have been made, TikTok would be able to operate again without placing our national security at risk," Krishnamoorthi said.

Raja Krishnamoorthi
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg is supporting a bipartisan House bill that would ban the popular video-sharing app TikTok in the U.S. AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.