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TikTok Finds Defender in NY Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Who Says App Is No ‘Boogeyman'

NBC New York 3/23/2023 Lynda Baquero
© Provided by NBC New York

A New York lawmaker is coming to the defense of social media giant TikTok, as he explained why he thinks the Chinese-owned app should not be banned.

Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who represents Westchester and part of the Bronx, says he has not seen any evidence that China is using TikTok to spy on the U.S.

"I haven’t seen any hard evidence that TikTok is committing espionage," Bowman told NBC News in a phone interview.

TikTok is owned by Byte Dance, based in China. On Thursday morning, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will go before Congress to address concerns from both sides of the aisle that the app might be using information to spy on Americans. He said it is a "pivotal moment" for the company, while also announcing changes starting April 21, like removing content that violates their rules and restricting mature material from being shown to those under 18.

In December, President Joe Biden banned the app on government devices, and critics claim the app presents risks to national security and data privacy. But Bowman said he doesn't buy into the notion that it is a national security concern.

"The idea that TikTok is the boogeyman, is political fear-mongering that’s happening," Bowman said.

Instead, Bowman said that privacy concerns extend well beyond just the video platform.

"We need conversation and regulation about all social media platforms because of the issue of data mining, data sharing," he said.

Bowman added that if information comes out showing that TikTok is a problem, he will acknowledge that he was wrong. But nonetheless, he said the conversation about regulating all social media companies needs to happen.

"TikTok or not, we haven't done enough in terms of making sure social media is safe, not addictive, doesn't push misinformation and can be used in the safest possible ways," Bowman said.

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