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Clock begins to tick for TikTok: China-based social media app’s days numbered in U.S.

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In a press call yesterday, Virginia Sen. Mark R. Warner celebrated more than a year later a step forward in the United States standing up to TikTok.

“I think the heavy-handed tactics TikTok used perhaps successfully against my initial bipartisan bill, the RESTRICT Act, while they were successful a year ago, the same heavy-handed tactics have not been successful in this round.”

Close to 80 percent of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate agreed that TikTok must remove itself from parent company ByteDance or be banned from the United States.

Warner has been sounding the alarm about ByteDance and the fact that Chinese-based companies do not make shareholders or customers their No. 1 priority.

“It is the Communist Party of China,” Warner said of Chinese-based companies’ priority.

Although 170 million Americans average 90 minutes a day watching videos on TikTok, “enormously troubling” for lawmakers including Warner is that China could be collecting data during that 90 minutes from unknowing Americans.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, don’t take my word for it. Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, said it’s a national security concern. Virtually all of our intelligence community has said.”

Other intelligence communities have already warned citizens and journalists about using applications owned by Chinese-based companies.

“I think this is a strong step forward,” Warner said.

He hopes that within a year action is taken against TikTok.

Warner clarified that he does not have issue with TikTok content creators, but with the fact that the social media app is owned by a Chinese-based company. He is willing to help find alternatives for content creators.

According to Warner, guardrails are also necessary for American-based social media apps in terms of youth safety and mental health. Artificial intelligence (AI) also needs guardrails for the future.

“Artificial intelligence is going to have potentially the power of social media times 10 or times 100,” Warner said. “If we wait five to 10 years to put any guardrails on artificial intelligence, it could make the social media/mental health crisis look tiny in comparison.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.