Shaw Zichu, chief executive officer of TikTok Inc., speaks during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. The forum is organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. Photographer: Brian van der Beek/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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A panel looking into TikTok’s national security risks is facing increased pressure to end its investigation into the popular video-sharing app and impose tight restrictions on whether and how the company can continue to operate in the US

On Thursday, two senators from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary and chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), urging the panel to “quickly conclude the investigation and impose strict structural restrictions between TikTok’s US operations and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.” , including a potential separation of companies.”

The lawmakers, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, R-Conn., recently appointed chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, and Rep. Jerry Moran, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that TikTok can collect a lot of data, combined with its ability to change its algorithm to click or suppress certain messages, make it particularly disturbing.

Lawmakers drew attention to media reports that TikTok employees spied on American journalists and leaked internal audio that showed ByteDance employees in China had accessed US user data. ByteDance has fired four employees who, in its opinion, illegally gained access to information about American journalists. The company said that US users’ data is not stored in China and that it is constantly reviewing security measures.

Such access would be particularly troubling because China’s national security laws allow companies based there to be forced to hand over internal information if the government deems it a national security concern. Earlier Thursday, Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said she doesn’t use TikTok for that reason and won’t advise others to use it either. The Department of Justice is a member of the interagency committee that is reviewing the campaign.

TikTok’s CFIUS investigation is related to ByteDance’s acquisition of American company Musical.ly in 2017. The group is empowered to investigate foreign investments and transactions with potential national security risks.

But the investigation dragged on for years, solutions proved difficult to finalize, and some intelligence officials still express concerns that the Chinese government could gain access to US user data and manipulate consumers.

Blumenthal and Moran cautioned CFIUS against a deal that would require only TikTok and ByteDance to change certain practices.

“Furthermore, the monitoring and hosting requirements will never remedy the mistrust caused by ByteDance’s past conduct,” the lawmakers wrote. “At a minimum, CFIUS should ensure that executive decisions about the platform reside in the United States and are completely free from coercive influence from Beijing. It must also ensure that decisions and access to all personal data, algorithms and content moderation affecting US users are beyond the reach or influence of the Chinese government.”

“CFIUS is committed to taking all necessary steps within its authority to protect the national security of the United States,” a statement from the Treasury Department said. “As a matter of law and practice, CFIUS does not comment publicly on transactions it may or may not review.”

TikTok did not immediately comment.

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