Republican lawmakers urge Biden to deactivate campaign TikTok account

President Joe Biden returns to the White House, after a weekend in Delaware

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of 18 Republican lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to deactivate his campaign's TikTok account citing national security concerns.

The lawmakers in a letter seen by Reuters said Biden was "ignoring TikTok's well-established national security risks. How can the federal government warn Americans about the risks of this app if the Commander in Chief uses it, too?"

Biden's campaign joined the short-video app TikTok on Feb. 11 and comes as he is courting younger voters. The campaign's initial video has now been seen 9.6 million times and it has about 162,000 followers.

The lawmakers including Senators Marco Rubio, Jerry Moran, John Barrasso, Marsha Blackburn, Rick Scott, and Josh Hawley urged Biden to "delete your account and publicly acknowledge the national security threat posed by TikTok."

The White House and TikTok did not respond to requests for comment on the letter Monday, while the Biden campaign declined comment.

Last week, Democratic Senator Mark Warner raised concerns about the national security implications of TikTok and the Biden campaign decision to join.

"I think that we still need to find a way to follow India, which has prohibited TikTok," said Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I'm a little worried about a mixed message."

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Sunday reiterated her call to ban TikTok. "We should have banned it from the beginning. It is incredibly dangerous," she said during a Fox News event.

Efforts in Congress to ban TikTok or create new tools to restrict it have stalled, while some lawmakers want the Commerce Department to put China-based TikTok parent ByteDance on an export control list.

Last month, TikTok told Congress that 170 million Americans now use the app, up from 150 million a year earlier.

The White House noted last week a ban on the use of TikTok on government devices approved by Congress in 2022 and signed by Biden remains in force.

The U.S. Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in March 2023 demanded TikTok's Chinese owners sell their shares, or face the possibility of the app being banned, Reuters and other outlets reported, but the administration has taken no action.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)