US officials to brief senators Wednesday on threats posed by TikTok, aide says

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows U.S. flag and TikTok logo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. national security officials will hold a closed-door briefing on Wednesday for senators on the Commerce and Intelligence committees on threats posed by Chinese-owned short video app TikTok, a committee aide told Reuters on Monday.

The classified briefing is being hosted by the chairs of the two committees, Mark Warner and Maria Cantwell, and the top Republicans on the panels, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The Senate is considering how to proceed after the House of Representatives voted last week on a bill to force Chinese-based ByteDance to divest TikTok within six months or face a ban.

The fate of TikTok, used by about 170 million Americans, has become a major issue in Washington where lawmakers have been flooded with calls from TikTok users who oppose the legislation.

Many lawmakers and the Biden administration say TikTok poses national security risks because China could compel TikTok to share American user data, while TikTok insists it has never and would never share U.S. data.

TikTok says it has spent more than $1.5 billion on the effort to protect U.S. data and house it in the United States.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who met with lawmakers last week, said the legislation, if signed into law, "will lead to a ban on TikTok in the United States."

The briefing is expected to include the FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Justice Department and will cover national security threats posed by foreign adversaries' exploitation of Americans' data, including by TikTok, and associated legislation, the aide said.

A separate staff briefing with a wider range of committee staff is set for Tuesday.

The House voted 352-65 on the TikTok crackdown bill, just eight days after the proposal was introduced. There is broad support in the Senate for taking action to address national security threats from foreign apps like TikTok but no agreement on the right approach.

Cantwell said in an interview last week she wants legislation to address broad concerns about foreign apps that will hold up in court.

"We'll probably have a better idea in a week what we think the options are," Cantwell told Reuters. "Of course we want to the strongest possible tool."

The House bill has won the backing of some key senators including Warner and Rubio saying they "look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Chang)