House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, asked by CBS News if banning TikTok in the U.S. was inevitable, responded “yes;” he also said that assurances by the company’s chief executive that American user data is insulated from Chinese authorities were “unbelievable.” But Turner suggested a sale of the company could assuage national security concerns.
Turner said in an interview that he did not believe the social media company could “continue to operate in the manner which they are, long term.”
The Ohio Republican’s comments followed Thursday’s testimony by TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew, who was grilled by members of both parties on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“What we know is companies that are controlled by China are, of course, controlled by the Communist Party in China,” said Turner. “There’s no division, as there is in our country between government and commerce. This really is something that everyone should be concerned about because whenever they download the TikTok app, they are surrendering access to data and information that could go right in the hands of the Communist Party in China.”
Turner, a member of the congressional Gang of Eight, which is briefed on the most sensitive government intelligence, predicted major changes for the app, which has 150 million U.S. users.
He said divestiture — or selling the company — might resolve his national security concerns, but it would depend on the structure and details.
“I do believe that a divestiture, a ban, something will have to happen to address this issue because it is far too great of a security concern,” Turner said. “You’re seeing governments beyond just our own ban the use of the TikTok app on their government equipment. That’s because they, on their own, have come to the determination that that app represents a security threat to their nation and to their nations’ data. Individuals should be making the same conclusion that this is a risk to them also.”
Asked how much damage has been done to American user data by TikTok, Turner said, “It’s more of a vulnerability than damage. But I do think that there is a rising damage that we have to be concerned about that certainly has national security implications.”
Turner added that in his mind, there was no separation between TikTok and the Chinese Communist Party.