A group of 15 US lawmakers has called for the Commerce Department to place TikTok parent company ByteDance on a government export control list.

The lawmakers called for ByteDance’s inclusion in the “Entity List” in order “to address critical vulnerabilities created by the company’s access to US software”.

The joint letter addressed to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, led by Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw and Democrat Josh Gottheimer, follows a series of stalled efforts in Congress to either ban TikTok or grant the Biden administration enhanced powers to regulate the app.

TikTok boasts a user base of more than 170 million Americans, prompting security worries regarding potential manipulation of ByteDance by the Chinese government to control data on US users.

The Commerce Department refrained from an immediate response to the lawmakers’ appeal. Raimondo previously acknowledged the national security risks posed by TikTok in October and expressed support for legislative measures to empower the Commerce Department in managing risks associated with apps.

Reports from March revealed that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, led by the US Treasury, demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their shares or face potential bans, yet no action has been taken by the administration to date.

The lawmakers emphasised in their letter to Raimondo that the lack of software updates, facilitated by the export of US software, could weaken the operability of TikTok’s applications concerning US users.

Despite concerns, some analysts predict that efforts to ban TikTok this year are unlikely, attributing this to the upcoming November elections and the app’s popularity, particularly among young voters.

Former president Donald Trump attempted to ban TikTok in 2020 but his efforts were thwarted by US courts.

Last year, the White House endorsed legislation empowering the administration to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies posing national security threats. However, the legislation has not yet been brought to a vote.

According to GlobalData’s Social Media Thematic Research 2023 report, social media companies will increasingly diversify away from their ad-funded business models in the face of increased regulatory scrutiny.

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By GlobalData

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