TikTok has secured the support of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, giving the China-founded app a high-profile liberal ally in the House to formally oppose a ban on the platform.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said in her first video on TikTok that she did not support a nationwide ban of the app and called such a move unprecedented.
“The United States has never before banned a social media company from existence, from operating in our borders, and this is an app that has over 150 million Americans on it,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on TikTok.
The congresswoman’s video, published to her @aocinthehouse account on Saturday, comes as the Biden administration has issued guidance to prevent or remove TikTok from government devices. The Office of Management and Budget said in late February the administration was giving federal agencies 30 days to delete TikTok with limited exceptions, under the federal device ban passed by Congress and signed by President Biden last year.
Some critics of TikTok, including Heritage Foundation research associate Jake Denton, questioned how the China-founded app secured the congresswoman’s support.
“TikTok’s parent company gave $150,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. AOC is a member of the CHCI advisory council,” Mr. Denton said on Twitter. “What a coincidence!”
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TikTok’s China-founded parent company ByteDance paid the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute $150,000 last December, according to a lobbying disclosure filed with the Senate.
The institute’s website also lists TikTok Director of Public Policy Jesse Price as a member of the institute’s board of directors, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is featured on the website’s leadership page.
U.S. policymakers have concerns that the Chinese government may have access to Americans’ data via TikTok and ByteDance, as China’s policies of civil-military fusion compel businesses to work with the country’s communist government.
But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s support of TikTok does not appear unequivocal. She said on TikTok that she has concerns about how several social media platforms collect data on Americans.
“The solution here is not to ban an individual company, but to actually protect Americans from this kind of egregious data harvesting that companies can do without your significant ability to say no,” she said on TikTok.
Other Democrats view banning TikTok differently. Some House Democrats expressed greater concern about TikTok, after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week.
For example, Rep. Tony Cardenas, California Democrat, said at Thursday’s hearing that Mr. Chew had united Republicans and Democrats in their frustration with TikTok.
Precisely what the House plans to do next is not fully clear. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday that lawmakers plan to act soon.
“It’s very concerning that the CEO of TikTok can’t be honest and admit what we already know to be true — China has access to TikTok user data,” Mr. McCarthy said on Twitter. “The House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The Senate is also working on legislation that may dramatically alter TikTok’s function in the U.S. A bipartisan group of 18 senators, with evenly divided Democratic and Republican support, is pushing legislation to empower Mr. Biden to ban TikTok.
The proposal is led by Sens. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, and John Thune, South Dakota Republican. It would also push the Commerce Department to work with the intelligence community to declassify information about how the federal government decides whether to pursue a ban of a tech platform.