In this photo illustration, the logo of social media app TikTok is displayed on an iPhone screen in front of the US flag and the Chinese flag in the background in Washington, DC on March 16, 2023.

Olivier Dulieri | AFP | Getty Images

A star-studded group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists has joined forces with a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on a task force with one goal: to counter China’s influence in the U.S. technology industry, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The consortium was named the Hill & Valley Forum, the Journal reported, a nod to the group’s bicoastal origins. Ahead of TikTok CEO Shaw’s speech to Congress next week, the Forum will host a dinner featuring prominent venture capitalists Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla, the Journal reported.

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Representatives for Thiel and Khosla could not be reached for comment.

TikTok’s potential influence on the American zeitgeist, especially among young and underage citizens, is a growing concern among lawmakers and regulators who worry that Chinese ownership of the app makes American users susceptible to China’s intelligence-gathering efforts.

Former Google global policy adviser Jacob Helberg, who heads the alliance, told the Journal that TikTok represented “the most powerful espionage operation China has ever conducted against the United States.”

TikTok’s popularity exploded during the coronavirus correction. TikTok’s Chinese parent company, Bytedance, said that by 2021, the number of active TikTok users will reach one billion, a sharp increase from December 2019, when it claimed 507 million monthly users.

Lawmakers, venture capitalists and lobbyists are now pushing for the government to ban or curtail the app’s influence, citing a strong threat from the Chinese government.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, has told ByteDance that unless the company’s Chinese owners divest their stakes, CFIUS will take action to ban the app, the company told CNBC on Thursday. The ultimatum comes weeks after lawmakers called on the Committee to end its years-long investigation into TikTok.

“There is no truth to Helberg’s claims,” ​​a TikTok spokesperson told CNBC. The spokesperson added that TikTok has been storing “all” new US user data “exclusively” with Oracle since October 2022.

Read more in The Wall Street Journal.

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