- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, is urging President Biden to prevent TikTok Shop from fully operating in the U.S. because of concerns that the Chinese platform poses potential threats to Americans’ privacy and national security.

TikTok Shop is an e-commerce platform operated by the popular China-owned social media service and it is poised to compete with Amazon in the digital marketplace. It is already live in Britain and it is reportedly being tested for the U.S. market.

Concerns about Chinese influence and data harvesting on TikTok caused the Trump administration to seek a ban on the video-based app in the U.S., and Mr. Rubio wants Mr. Biden to adopt former President Trump’s hawkish approach. 

“The Biden administration has the power to prevent TikTok from operating in America, and now it needs to use it,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement. “And if for some reason, bureaucratic lawyers get in the way, President Biden should ask Congress for the necessary authorities. We cannot keep letting Chinese Communist Party-directed companies invade and weaken our country.”

Mr. Biden has taken a far less aggressive approach to TikTok than his predecessor. Last year, he revoked Mr. Trump’s executive order that sought to block transactions with TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, and Mr. Biden replaced it with an executive order of his own. 

Mr. Biden’s order established a new framework for evaluating risk on connected software applications and the Commerce Department has reviewed proposed rules that would define how the federal government seeks to protect Americans’ data on platforms like TikTok, according to the Federal Register. The Commerce Department did not respond to a request for comment on its rules and whether the agency will intervene in TikTok Shop’s operation in the U.S. 

TikTok has also faced federal scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which examines commercial transactions for national security risks with the input of seven federal departments and White House officials. The National Security Council did not respond to a request for comment regarding CFIUS’ review of TikTok, but a council aide told the Washington Post in February the review remained ongoing. 

TikTok Shop poses a new challenge for its American tech competitors. While TikTok’s social app has positioned itself opposite Facebook and Instagram, the e-commerce platform enters a different industry and would expand the China-based company’s influence in the western market. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment on TikTok Shop and Mr. Rubio’s criticism. 

Mr. Rubio has previously raised concerns about TikTok, including in 2019 when he called for a federal review of the platform and last year when he sought a block of TikTok

In 2020, several federal government agencies prohibited the use of TikTok on government-issued devices, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. 

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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