Moran urging intelligence community to declassify information that would show TikTok’s national security threat

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A stock image of the TikTok logo is shown.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran is lobbying to declassify pieces of intelligence briefings that would show national security threats posed by the popular social media platform TikTok, whose parent company is based in China.

Moran, R-Kansas, said making such information publicly available likely would convince more Americans that a discussed ban of TikTok in the U.S. was justified.

“I have requested to the intelligence community that a significant amount of information be declassified,” said Moran, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and receives classified briefings on the matter. “I have the hope that if Americans, many who strongly don’t want their use of TikTok intruded on, if they knew the extent of the danger TikTok presents, I think as citizens they would be willing to give up the enjoyment or recreation that comes from TikTok in support of our country.”

Moran said the briefings he’s received about how the social platform is being used by actors of the Chinese government have convinced him the social media platform poses a danger to national security.

“It is clear to me that TikTok is a threat to the safety and well-being of Americans,” Moran said in a brief interview while on the University of Kansas campus Friday.

Prospects of a TikTok ban are unclear. The Biden administration has pushed for consideration of a ban. Previously, many Republican lawmakers had done so as well. However, former president Donald Trump last month reversed his position on the issue and said he no longer was supportive of a ban. Multiple other Republican lawmakers have now also begun to signal opposition to a ban. Many political pundits have speculated a TikTok ban could alienate large swaths of voters.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, speaks to a member of the public on Friday, April 12, 2024 at the University of Kansas’ Lawrence campus.

Moran did not mention Trump’s position in his comments on Friday. Moran has broken with Trump on other issues, including certifying the 2020 presidential election results. On Friday, Moran said that TikTok is being used to invade people’s privacy, but that the issue goes beyond that. He talked of user information that is embedded in the social media platform, saying that “information that the Chinese Communist Party would want to know can come through what TikTok does in the United States.”

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in Beijing. Reportedly, the state-owned China Internet Investment Fund owns a key voting stake in ByteDance’s main Chinese subsidiary.

Moran said he was limited in what he can say specifically about TikTok’s activities.

“It is a couple of prongs,” Moran said of his TikTok concerns. “It is and can be an influence campaign, and it is the capability of intruding on people’s privacy through the use of TikTok. It is multifaceted.”

TikTok has long denied that it could be used as a tool of the Chinese government. The company has said it has never shared U.S. user data with Chinese authorities and won’t do so if it is asked.

Moran said federal officials are being briefed on multiple Chinese-related threats to national security.

“We are looking federally at rail cars that are manufactured in China that presumably have the capability of determining where the rail car is,” Moran said. “The poster child is, China can keep track of the movement of troops and equipment on rail.”

Moran also said federal officials were examining the risks of Chinese-made cranes that are used in busy ports being able to be shut down remotely due to the presence of a particular computer chip that could disable the crane.

Moran said any ban of TikTok would have to be done with care.

“I think there would be constitutional issues in just banning TikTok,” Moran said. “You have to find behavior broader than just naming a company.”

Being able to share currently classified information about the threats with the public could be an important part of helping the country understand the risks and the need to consider a TikTok ban, he said.

“I trust Americans and believe that if you have the information that shows the prevalence of TikTok in the United States is damaging to the country’s future, I think most people who are fans of their use of TikTok would say my country is more important than that,” Moran said.


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