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White House Said to Consider Pushing Congress on Dealing With TikTok

The Biden administration is considering pushing Congress to give it more legal power to deal with TikTok and other technology that could expose sensitive data to China, five people with knowledge of the matter said, as it comes under growing pressure to resolve security concerns about the Chinese-owned video app.

White House officials are weighing whether to support legislation being developed by Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, that would give the government more authority to police apps and services that could pose a risk to Americans’ data security or be used in foreign influence campaigns, two of the people said. That could be used to target TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.

The administration has provided feedback on the draft bill, which would offer an alternative to legislation that outright bans the app, the two people said. Mr. Warner said Sunday on Fox News that he planned to introduce the bill this week alongside Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota. It’s unclear exactly how the administration would back Mr. Warner’s bill or other legislation should it choose to do so.

The growing focus on Congress is a significant shift in the White House’s strategy to respond to concerns about TikTok. Since President Biden took office, his administration has privately negotiated a deal that would allow TikTok to operate in the United States while mitigating national security concerns about it. Under Chinese law, critics have said, the app could be compelled to turn over personal data it has collected about millions of Americans to Chinese authorities. And they fear Beijing could use TikTok to deliver political messages to people’s smartphone screens.

Top administration officials have ramped up their discussions of what to do about TikTok in recent months, two people familiar with the matter said. At least some of the entities involved in vetting the deal with CFIUS, including the Department of Justice and officials at the White House, want to take a hard line against the app, one of the people said. They spoke anonymously because the conversations are private.

“Consistent with law and practice, CFIUS does not publicly comment on transactions that it may or may not be reviewing,” said a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which runs the committee. A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment.

But the administration’s options may be limited without changes to the law. In 2020, President Donald J. Trump threatened to ban TikTok from Apple’s and Google’s app stores unless ByteDance sold the app to an American buyer. Courts later said the government didn’t have the legal right to threaten a ban, effectively neutering its leverage to force a sale.

TikTok’s influence has only grown since then, and it surpassed more than one billion users worldwide in 2021.

Last year, Congress prohibited the app on devices used by the federal government. States such as Virginia and South Carolina have announced similar bans. A group of lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, both Republicans, have also proposed legislation that would ban TikTok in the United States. And the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bill last week giving the president more power over the app.

Mr. Warner has said legislation is needed to police all apps and services that threaten America’s national security, not just TikTok. His bill will most likely give the Commerce Department the ability to vet those services, including for security risks for data belonging to Americans, as Mr. Biden instructed the agency to do in a 2021 executive order, according to a person with knowledge of the draft. The bill also enables the agency to look at how a service could be used for foreign influence operations.

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