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Republicans demand FBI, DHS update Congress on ongoing TikTok investigation

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FIRST ON FOX: A pair of top House Republicans are calling for the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to brief Congress on ongoing federal probes into the popular Chinese social media platform TikTok.

The Republican lawmakers — House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., and Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, who chairs the panel's Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Subcommittee — penned a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, demanding information about their roles in the federal government’s national security review of TikTok.

'The FBI and other U.S. national security agencies have raised alarms about the potential that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) could use TikTok for nefarious purposes,' they wrote to Wray and Mayorkas. 'The concerns associated with the proliferation of TikTok are real and growing. DHS, the Transportation Security Administration, and the U.S. Department of Defense have banned the use of TikTok on official mobile devices due to security concerns.'

'We are concerned about TikTok’s alignment with the interests of the PRC, as it broadcasts anti-American propaganda, suppresses critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who raise concerns regarding human rights abuses, and apparently allows for the glorification of foreign terrorists,' Green and Pfluger continued.

The two GOP leaders said it was important for the FBI and DHS to provide a briefing given the lack of details about the agencies' role in current investigations and to better understand their overall efforts to address China's 'espionage activities against the United States within the homeland.'

TikTok, which is owned by Beijing, China-based firm ByteDance, has been the subject of debate in recent years over its potential national security risks. The video-sharing platform, which has more than 150 million U.S. users, has significant ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and experts have warned it may collect and store sensitive data about users.

Wray acknowledged in late 2022 that the FBI itself had concerns about the widespread use of TikTok in America. 

'We do have national security concerns at least from the FBI’s end about TikTok,' Wray said during a Homeland Security Committee hearing at the time. 

'They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users,' he added. 'Or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose. Or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices.'

In their letter, Green and Pfluger noted that they are aware the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) is conducting a review of TikTok. CFIUS is an interagency taskforce dating back to the 1970s that is overseen by the Department of the Treasury, includes both the DHS and FBI, and is tasked with reviewing certain foreign investments that may pose a national security threat.

And the Republicans noted examples of how TikTok may suppress content critical of the Chinese Communist Party, but allow content praising terrorism. For example, the app censors content about China's genocide of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic groups, but for days last year allowed ant-American content praising and sympathizing with Osama Bin Laden.

'TikTok is a national and personal data security threat that glorifies terrorists and espouses an anti-American agenda,' Pfluger said in a statement to Fox News Digital. 'The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have a responsibility to address the Chinese Communist Party’s espionage activities against the United States, and I’m proud to lead this effort with Chairman Green.'

The FBI declined to comment and DHS said it would respond to the letter via official channels.

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