TikTok’s most popular House lawmaker discusses security concerns
WASHINGTON — A well-known TikTok lawmaker in North Carolina said Wednesday that while he recognizes the “real” security issues with the Chinese-owned video app, he also opposes an outright ban.
Democratic Representative Jeff Jackson, who has 1.2 million followers on TikTok, said in an interview that he attributes some of his public recognition to the popular app, which helped him reach voters in various ages.
“You just happen to get a lot more views on TikTok than on Instagram or Facebook. Like 10 times more,” Jackson, 40, told NBC News. “I was able to reach a lot of people, and at the same time I think the security issues are real.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned in November that the app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. poses national security risks and that the Chinese government could use it to influence US users or control their devices.
“I don’t think he was hyperbolic,” Jackson said of Wray’s assessment.
Jackson said the data privacy and app algorithm concerns highlighted by Wray “will be very difficult to address as long as it remains a Chinese company.”
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is set to testify before Congress for the first time, in a hearing Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His appearance comes amid a bipartisan push to address security concerns surrounding the app, but also as TikTok supporters voice their opposition to a possible ban.
When asked if he thinks TikTok is too big to ban, based on its millions of US users, Jackson said: “I think they have a case to make about the number of users. ‘Americans who use it, and I think the case is that a ban is clearly not the best case scenario.’
Instead, he argued, a change in ownership was “necessary at this point”.
A TikTok spokesperson said last week: “If protecting national security is the goal, divestment does not solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on streams or access. to data.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that the United States had provided no evidence that TikTok posed a threat to its national security.
Defending his own use of the app, Jackson said he took steps to ensure data protection, including keeping a “burner phone” whose only app is TikTok. He said he didn’t have the app on his personal or government-issued phones. TikTok is banned on House-issued mobile devices.
“It’s worth having a dedicated phone and sometimes a bit of a headache to use just because there are so many people I can reach,” Jackson said.
A measure banning TikTok on certain government devices was included in a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that President Joe Biden signed into law late last year.
For Jackson, whose TikTok base is surpassed by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 1.4 million, the app has helped him reach a wide audience, including users at a seniors’ residence in his district.
“People appreciate me being on TikTok,” the first-term lawmaker said. “I’m more recognized in public because of TikTok, frankly, than any other app. People have mentioned me more about seeing me on TikTok than anywhere else.”