Pompeo: US ‘looking at’ banning TikTok, other Chinese social media apps

Pompeo: US ‘looking at’ banning TikTok, other Chinese social media apps
In this Feb. 25, 2020 photo shows the icon for TikTok taken in New York. (AP, File)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that officials are considering a ban of popular short-video app TikTok and other Chinese social media apps due to national security concerns.

“I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at,” the nation’s top diplomat said Monday on Fox News. He added that a person should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. have expressed concern over the national security risk posed by the rising popularity of Chinese-owned social media platforms. In a letter sent in October to then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged officials to review the threat posed by TikTok, noting it had been downloaded more than 110 million times in the U.S. alone.

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"China's vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," Cotton and Schumer wrote in the letter.

In a statement obtained by Reuters, TikTok officials denied ever having provided user data to the Chinese government.

"We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users," the statement said. "We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."

Pompeo’s comments came one day after India banned TikTok, operated by Beijing-based internet firm Bytedance, and 58 other Chinese-owned apps amid a border dispute between the two countries. The ban was largely symbolic since the apps can’t be automatically erased from devices where they’ve already been downloaded.

TikTok officials have previously said that the company operates separately from ByteDance and that its data centers are located outside of China, meaning their data is not subject to Chinese law, according to CNN. Company officials told the news network that TikTok keeps data for U.S. users in the United States and that national security concerns centered around the company are “unfounded.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.