A Wisconsin lawmaker sent a letter to the CEO of ESPN expressing concern over TikTok sponsoring halftime shows of NCAA college football bowl games.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) sent a joint letter to CEO James Pitaro on Monday over the recent games. The letter questions ESPN's corporate decision-making and risk analysis for sponsorships. The letter also mentions the recent banning of TikTok on federal government devices, including in Congress, calling the app a "significant threat to U.S. national security."
The letter says TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, "which is subject to the direction of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). No Chinese company is truly private, because under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all citizens and businesses must assist in intelligence work, including sharing data."
The letter says in part, "TikTok poses a two-fold danger. First, the app can track cellphone users’ locations, internet-browsing history, and other key personal data—even when users are on other websites. The CCP could also collect sensitive national security data from government officials and develop profiles on millions of Americans to use for blackmail, espionage, or targeted influence. Despite years of denying that ByteDance’s Chinese employees can access U.S. users’ data, ByteDance last month admitted that employees used TikTok’s data to track U.S. journalists’ locations."
Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi also wrote about TikTok's censorship of references to politically sensitive topics.
The letter concludes:
"We are concerned that despite these widely known issues with the app, ESPN has allowed TikTok to sponsor NCAA bowl game halftime shows. In light of the serious national threat posed by TikTok and the Chinese Communist Party more broadly, we respectfully request answers to the following questions by January 31, 2023:
1) What vetting procedures does ESPN conduct when reviewing potential corporate sponsors of its programming, including halftime shows? To what extent does this process include consideration of potential national security risks? Were these procedures followed in ESPN’s decision to allow TikTok sponsorship?
2) At the time of its decision to allow Tiktok sponsorship, was ESPN aware that TikTok is, through ByteDance, effectively controlled by the CCP and that the U.S. government has determined that it is a national security threat?
3) Will ESPN commit to ending its commercial relationship with TikTok, ByteDance, and other Chinese companies determined by the U.S. government to pose national security threats?"
Gallagher, Krishnamoorthi, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation last month to ban TikTok from operating in the United States.
"No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen, which is why it’s time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it’s too late," Gallagher previously said.
Last week TMJ4 reported that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is likely to issue an executive order banning TikTok on state devices. State Republicans called on the governor last month to ban the app after expressing concerns that the Chinese government could use the app to spy on users and spread propaganda. Evers previously stated he was having conversations with the FBI and state emergency management and was "close to a decision."
On Monday, New Jersey and Ohio joined other states by banning the app on government-owned and managed devices.
According to the Associated Press, TikTok responded to concerns by saying the company protects all data from American users and Chinese government officials have no access to it.