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TikTok CEO to face lawmakers amid frustration from both parties

(NewsNation) — For the first time, the CEO of TikTok will take questions from lawmakers under oath this week.

CEO Shou Zi Chew is hoping to salvage the social media app’s public image, which will likely be a big task considering some lawmakers from both parties in Congress up to the president have branded TikTok a national security threat and a propaganda tool of the Chinese Communist Party.

“I do believe data is being collected on us,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said. “I think data is being collected on us in so many ways that we have no idea.”

Dingell, who sits on the committee Chew will appear before, tells NewsNation the app raises major security and ethical concerns. But she says it’s important to hear the CEO out and gather all the facts before Congress takes action.

“I’m going to do what a responsible policy maker does, going to have hearings, going to talk to people,” Dingell said.

She says an all-out ban is at least on the table. Others aren’t so patient.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., says her concerns over TikTok apply to how other tech firms collect data too.

“How is that information being sold to others? This is a much bigger problem that Congress needs to look into. Calling this a TikTok problem by itself I think really misses the elephant in the room here,” Warren said.

Others favor an even more aggressive approach, saying it’s time Congress bans the app itself.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., says there’s no separating a Chinese-owned app from the Communist government itself.

“If it’s owned by the Chinese, that data goes back to the Chinese government. The Chinese communist party has access to it. It is the law in China,” Lankford said.

Frustration with TikTok appears to be uniting both parties. A House bill passed the GOP-controlled House Foreign Relations Committee giving President Joe Biden authority to ban TikTok is now heading to the House floor.

The White House and a group of 12 senators from both sides of the aisle support what’s called the Restrict Act, giving the government power to potentially ban technologies from China and other nations the U.S. deems adversaries.

“It’s safe to assume that if the Chinese Communisty Party is willing to lie about its spy balloon and cover up the origins of the worst pandemic in 100 years, they’ll lie about using TikTok to spy on American citizens,” Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, told reporters Tuesday.

This comes as the Department of Justice is probing ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, for allegedly collecting data and doing surveillance on American journalists.

Another alternative, the president favors divestment.

Chew is scheduled to testify at the “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms” hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the morning of March 23.