Rep. Josh Gottheimer believes TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), posing a threat to the safety of children, data, and U.S. national security.
Gottheimer pushed for legislation in Hackensack March 6 that would grant the President the power to ban TikTok in the United States, or force the sale of its U.S. operations to an American company — if the President believes there is continued data collection and a clear threat to national security.
“It’s time we gave the President the tools to fight back against TikTok’s information invasion against America’s families,” said Gottheimer. “In the wrong hands, this data is an enormous asset to the Chinese Communist Party —a known adversary— and their malign activities.”
Ban on Government Devices
The North Jersey Democrat’s push comes as the U.S. military, federal government, and state governments, including New Jersey, have banned TikTok on government-issued devices.
The ban comes after Chinese state-sponsored hacking group successfully compromised the computer networks of at least six U.S. state governments between May 2021 and February this year.
According to Gottheimer, TikTok has more than 100 million monthly active users that collects far-reaching data from its users, including usernames, passwords, personally identifiable information, pictures, and videos of millions of Americans. All that data is easily accessed by the Chinese government.
“The CCP has made it abundantly clear that it is willing to leverage technology to breach United States institutions, steal our intellectual property, collect data on our children and all U.S. citizens, and access the systems that control our critical infrastructure,” he said.
U.S. intelligence officials have stated that China is America’s biggest global threat in its willingness to use cyberwarfare and surveillance tactics to breach U.S. institutions. In 2019, the FTC fined TikTok for knowingly collecting the names, email addresses, pictures, and locations of children under the age of 13 without parental consent. And in 2022, TikTok agreed to a class-action settlement for harvesting U.S. personal data from users without their consent.
Beholden to Chinese Government
“Chinese law obligates TikTok’s parent company to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work’,” said Gottheimer. “TikTok is basically bought and paid for by the Chinese government.”
Besides the Presidential powers, Gottheimer is demanding that TikTok immediately cease all data collection of personally identifiable information American citizens, beginning with underage users.
The Bergen County lawmaker recounted helping the family of a 13-year-old girl in the 5th District delete her account after it was hacked, changing her password and locking her out of the account. The hacker changed her status from private to public exposing her identity, pictures, and videos.
Gottheimer said the response from the company’s CEO of TikTok last year when he questioned their child data privacy policies was “inadequate….and frankly insulting.”
“They made no commitment to protect both our country and our children,” he said. “They admitted that they collect data on children, including IP addresses and other device information.”
“TikTok is clearly being used as yet another tool in the Chinese government’s arsenal against America, and it’s high time we address its serious impacts on our children and our national security.”
The congressman connected the social media company’s action with the recent downing of a surveillance balloon as a need to be more aggressive in engaging with China.
“This was a completely unacceptable, aggressive, and provocative move by the Chinese government, and— as a member of the House Intelligence Committee—I believe that we need to take concrete action to curb China’s push to influence, infiltrate, and undermine our country,” he said.
“This is about protecting our national security from an adversary who wants to do harm to America’s standing as the leader of the free world.”