By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – TikTok creators and three U.S. Democratic Party lawmakers on Wednesday said they opposed any potential ban on the Chinese-owned short video sharing app that is used by more than 150 million Americans.
On Thursday TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee amid growing calls for a ban over national security concerns at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington have deteriorated.
Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Mark Pocan and Robert Garcia and TikTok creators called at a press conference in Washington for broad-based privacy legislation that would address all large social media companies.
“Why the hysteria and the panic and the targeting of TikTok?” Bowman asked. “Let’s do the right thing here – comprehensive social media reform as it relates to privacy and security.”
Still, far more U.S. lawmakers want TikTok banned. Critics fear that TikTok user data in the United States could be passed on to China’s government. Last week, TikTok said the administration of President Joe Biden demanded its Chinese owners divest their stakes or it face a potential ban.
Creators talked on Wednesday about posting videos of baking cakes or selling greeting cards to TikTok followers. Some held up signs saying TikTok benefits small businesses. TikTok says 5 million businesses use the app.
TikTok creator Jason Linton uses TikTok to share videos of his three adopted children in Oklahoma and has interacted with people around the world.
“I am asking our politicians – don’t take away the community that we’ve all built – a community that lasts, that loves,” Linton said at the press conference.
Pocan said a “xenophobic witch hunt” is motivating some in Congress to seek a TikTok ban. “Banning TikTok isn’t the answer. Making sure Americans data is safe is,” he said.
Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor on Wednesday that TikTok is a threat that needs to be addressed but it is not the only surveillance threat to young people. That position “is deliberately missing the Big Tech forest for the TikTok trees.”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner said two additional senators backed his bipartisan legislation with Republican John Thune to give the Biden administration new powers to ban TikTok.
“Congress needs to give the administration the tools to review and mitigate the harms posed by foreign technology products that come from adversarial nations,” Warner said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Grant McCool)