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Gina Raimondo and TikTok

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew at the offices of ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, in Shanghai.ORE HUIYING/NYT

Gina Raimondo probably wasn’t thinking a lot about TikTok when she was shaking hands with Rhode Island voters in high rises across the state during her two campaigns for governor.

But the wildly popular video-sharing app could soon become a major issue on the US commerce secretary’s plate as the Biden administration wrestles with the potential national security threats posed by a Chinese-owned company with access to American users’ personal data.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the administration is considering banning TikTok in the US if the Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. refuses to sell its shares in the company. The app is already banned from government devices (so Raimondo can’t upload to TikTok when she’s hanging with President Biden), and the UK government is about to do the same, according to the BBC.


Raimondo told Bloomberg that although she hates TikTok because kids have become addicted to it, “the politician in me thinks you’re gonna literally lose every voter under 35, forever.” She said she isn’t sure that banning a single company is the answer.

But a possible TikTok ban has been gaining momentum on both sides of the aisle in Congress, and the US Treasury-run Committee on Foreign Investment in the US has now demanded that the company be sold.

There’s still a lot to be ironed out in the coming months, and TikTok officials maintain that a sale wouldn’t address US security concerns. Shou Zi Chew, the company’s CEO, is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.