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US Senate considering public hearing on TikTok crackdown bill, committee chair says

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows U.S. flag and TikTok logo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell on Wednesday said she is considering holding a public hearing on a TikTok crackdown bill after lawmakers got a closed-door briefing from U.S. national intelligence and Justice Department officials.

"It's important to get it right," Cantwell told reporters, and declining to offer a precise timetable on next steps.

The U.S. House voted 352-65 on March 13 to force Chinese-based ByteDance to divest short video app TikTok within six months or face a ban.

Cantwell said senators want legislation to address concerns about TikTok.

"The key point here is getting a tool that can be used to stop foreign actors from doing deleterious things that might harm U.S. citizens," Cantwell said. "We're get it get done and we're not going to take forever."

Cantwell said she plans to meet this week with one of the House sponsors of the legislation, Representative Mike Gallagher, a Republican who chairs a select committee on China, "and then we'll figure out a game plan."

The Senate is set to go on recess later this week until April 8.

The classified briefing was hosted by Cantwell and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner and the top Republicans on the panels, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Cantwell said senators did not need to call TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to testify. He was on Capitol Hill last week to lobby against the legislation. "We’ll hear from somebody who wants to advocate for them. But we don’t have to hear directly from them, we kind of know what they’re saying," she said.

The fate of TikTok, used by about 170 million Americans, has become a major issue in Washington where lawmakers have been flooded with calls from TikTok users who oppose the legislation.

Many lawmakers and the Biden administration say TikTok poses national security risks because China could compel TikTok to share American user data, while TikTok insists it has never and would never share U.S. data.

TikTok says it has spent more than $1.5 billion on the effort to protect U.S. data and house it in the United States.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Nick Zieminski)