House Homeland Security Chairman Asks Supporters to Join His TikTok

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
July 11, 2022Updated: July 11, 2022

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, recently urged his supporters to follow his TikTok, the popular Chinese video-sharing app that has drawn national security concerns.

“Follow my new account on TikTok. (benniegthompson),” Thompson wrote on Twitter on July 1.

At the time of writing, the Democratic lawmaker had 63 followers on his newly created TikTok account, but he had not posted any videos.

Currently, Thompson also chairs the Jan. 6 Select Committee. The longtime lawmaker is seeking reelection this year in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, facing Republican challenger Brian Flowers.

In March, Thompson supported a bill (H.R.6837) to ban TikTok on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) devices, which the House Homeland Security Committee approved. The legislation was introduced a month earlier by Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) with the goal of stopping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from spying on Americans using TikTok.

“In today’s world, we cannot risk compromising important homeland security information to our foreign adversaries,” Guest wrote in a statement accompanying the introduction of his bill.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could embolden the CCP’s own expansionary goals,” Guest continued. “In such a scenario, a security breach would be catastrophic to a U.S. response, which is why we must move to ban on DHS devices the use of apps that obtain data on their users and could make that information available to our adversaries.”

“This is a common-sense step to close a potential tool of the CCP to spy on the U.S,” Guest concluded. The Mississippi lawmaker from the 3rd Congressional District also sits on the House Homeland Security Committee.

If enacted, DHS employees would need to remove TikTok from any of the department’s devices in 60 days, according to the bill (pdf).

In China, the Chinese national intelligence law, which went into effect in 1997, compels individuals and organizations to collaborate on national intelligence matters. Moreover, the communist regime can exert control over private firms through embedded Party cells.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning TikTok. However, President Joe Biden revoked the order in July 2021 and directed the Commerce Department to evaluate the app’s national security risk.

Most recently, Brendan Carr, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner, wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, calling on the two executives to remove TikTok from their app stores.

“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” Carr wrote in his letter (pdf).

Earlier this month, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to formally investigate TikTok and its China-based parent company ByteDance.

“We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021,” the senators wrote to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

“In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice,” the senators added.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Thompson’s office for comment.