TikTok’s influence on American kids continues to be a hot topic as the government grapples with what to do about the Chinese-owned social media platform.
U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Paul Nakasone testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, expressing his concern regarding what data TikTok may be collecting from users and how it influences American children.
“TikTok concerns me for a number of different reasons. One is the data that they have,” Nakasone said.
“Secondly is the algorithm and the control, who controls the algorithm. Third is the broad platform influence operations, as we talked about previously. It’s not only a fact that you can influence something, but you can also turn off the message as well when you have such a large population of listeners,” Nakasone said.
TikTok is owned by parent company ByteDance, which is based in Beijing and is projected to have over 97.6 million users in the U.S. in 2023, according to Statista.
Its rapid growth has prompted concern about the threat it poses to national security and its user data potentially being compromised by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to The Epoch Times.
Others have raised concerns about potentially harmful content the algorithm pushes on the app, which starkly contrasts with what its Chinese users see.
Last month, The White House gave federal agencies 30 days to remove TikTok from all federal devices and systems, reported Reuters.
During the testimony on Tuesday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) led a group of 12 bipartisan senators to introduce the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act.
If passed, the RESTRICT Act would give the Commerce Department the power to review and prevent information communications and technology transactions from tech companies owned by China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuelan companies.
“Congress needs to stop taking a piecemeal approach when it comes to technology from adversarial nations that pose national security risks,” said Sen. Thune in a press release.
“Our country needs a process in place to address these risks, which is why I’m pleased to work with Senator Warner to establish a holistic, methodical approach to address the threats posed by technology platforms – like TikTok – from foreign adversaries. This bipartisan legislation would take a necessary step to ensure consumers’ information and our communications technology infrastructure is secure,” Thune continued.
TikTok said China cannot access its user data and information, denied that its content can be manipulated, and called on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to complete an agreement that would enable it to continue its U.S. operations, according to a separate Reuters report.
“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS—of which the Department of Defense and the NSA are a part—to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years,” said TikTok representative Brooke Oberwetter in a statement, per The Epoch Times.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.