Trudeau tight-lipped on potential U.S. TikTok ban as key bill passes

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Trudeau declines to comment on U.S. TikTok ban as key bill passes
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he won’t be commenting as the United States closed in on a bill that could ban TikTok but said he continues to “look closely” to ensure cybersecurity for Canadians.

The United States Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban, citing long-standing concerns about a Chinese law that requires companies to comply with orders to share information with authorities.

The move by U.S. lawmakers is expected to face legal challenges and has raised concerns from content creators who say they rely on the short-form video app for income.

“I’m not going to comment on what other governments are doing. What I will say is Canada will continue to look very closely at how we can make sure we’re keeping Canadians safe while making sure we’re taking advantage of great technologies that spur innovation and opportunity for people right across the country,” Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday.

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“We know that the security, privacy and the data protection of Canadians needs to be a first priority for us. We’ve already taken significant measures on that and we will continue to do that. But we will act in ways that are right for Canadians.

Click to play video: 'New poll shows Canadians may be in favor of banning TikTok'
New poll shows Canadians may be in favor of banning TikTok

Canadian officials banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, citing security concerns, in February 2023 as other western countries did the same.

At the time, Trudeau said: “This may be a first step. It may be the only step we need to take.”

What are the concerns about TikTok?

The TikTok legislation was included as part of a larger U.S. $95-billion package that provides foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel and was passed 79-18.

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It now goes to President Joe Biden, who said in a statement immediately after passage that he will sign it Wednesday.

The passage of the legislation is the culmination of long-held bipartisan fears in Washington over Chinese threats and the ownership of TikTok, which is used by 170 million Americans.

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share TikTok user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government.

A September 2022 intelligence brief reported on by The Canadian Press under access-to-information law also provided fresh insight into Canadian government concerns about TikTok.

The report said the brief by the Privy Council Office’s intelligence assessment secretariat says TikTok is the first Chinese-owned app to reach more than a billion users beyond China, “creating a globally embedded and ubiquitous collection and influence platform for Beijing to exploit.”

“Despite assurances, there is growing evidence that TikTok’s data is accessible to China,” said the heavily edited brief, which was based on both open sources and classified information.

The company has said the same scrutiny being applied to it amid talk of a U.S. ban should apply to all social media companies as well.

— with files from Global’s Sean Previl, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press.


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