US lawmakers urge Commerce to put TikTok-parent ByteDance on export control list

busThe ByteDance logo is seen at the company's office building in Shanghai

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of 15 U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged the Commerce Department to add TikTok's China-based parent company ByteDance to a government export control list to restrict its access to American software.

The lawmakers, led by Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw and Democrat Josh Gottheimer, in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urged that ByteDance be added to what is known as the "Entity List" in order "to address critical vulnerabilities created by the company’s access to U.S. software."

The request comes after efforts have stalled in Congress to ban TikTok or give the Biden administration new powers to restrict the short-video-sharing app, which is used by more than 170 million Americans. Security concerns about TikTok include the potential that the Chinese government could use it to control data on millions of U.S. users.

The Commerce Department did not immediately comment on the letter.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in October had said that TikTok "poses national security risks," and said she supported legislation giving Commerce new tools to address risks from apps.

A TikTok spokesperson on Thursday said the letter from lawmakers misrepresents the facts and the law and "ignores the industry-leading work we've done to safeguard protected U.S. user data. We've engaged in good faith with Congress and relevant agencies through the CFIUS process for over four years and we continue to do so."

The U.S. Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in March demanded that TikTok's Chinese owners sell their shares, or face the possibility of the app's being banned, Reuters and other outlets reported, but the administration has taken no action.

The lawmakers, in their letter to Raimondo, added, "If American users are not able to upgrade their app with software updates, which involves the export of U.S. software, then the operability of the applications of concern will be weakened."

Some analysts think Congress and the White House are unlikely to try to ban TikTok this year, given the November elections and TikTok's popularity with young voters.

Biden's predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, tried to ban TikTok in 2020 but was blocked by U.S. courts.

The White House last year backed legislation to give the administration new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats, but it has never come up for a vote.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler)