Republicans in Congress, who will set the agenda for the House in the coming year, grilled TikTok on Tuesday over suspicions that the business may have misled Congress regarding the amount of user data it exchanges with China, where owner ByteDance is headquartered.
Republicans will take over control of the House in January as a result of victories in elections earlier this month.
Representatives James Comer, the senior Republican on the Oversight Committee, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote to TikTok to express their concerns about what they saw to be misleading material in a staff briefing.
In a letter dated Tuesday to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, the Republican congressmen said that "some of the information TikTok provided during the staff briefing appears to be untrue or misleading, including that TikTok does not track U.S. user locations."
The letter might be an indication of the close examination they intend to give Chinese businesses, such as TikTok, which was a target of the Republican government of former President Donald Trump.
However, the TikTok controversy has also alarmed the Democratic Biden administration. Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, claimed earlier this month that China may use the video-sharing software to manipulate users or seize control of their devices.
The congressmen questioned TikTok about a variety of issues, including if it could disclose drafts of any agreements it might be negotiating with the Biden administration to continue operating in the United States.
Due to concerns that U.S. user data might be transferred to China's communist government, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which assesses foreign companies' acquisitions of U.S. businesses for potential national security risks, ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok in 2020.
For months, CFIUS and TikTok have been negotiating to come to a national security agreement to safeguard the data of TikTok's more than 100 million users. A number of Trump executive orders that tried to prohibit new TikTok downloads were rescinded by President Joe Biden in June 2021. He also directed the Commerce Department to evaluate the security risks posed by the apps.
TikTok is an international version of Douyin, which was released in the Chinese market in September 2016. It launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in most markets outside of mainland China; however, it became available globally only in 2018 after merging with another Chinese social media service, Musical.ly.
TikTok and Douyin feature nearly identical user interfaces but have no access to each other's content. Their servers are all located in the market where the app is offered. The two goods are comparable, but they do not have the same features.