In this photo illustration, the logo of social media company TikTok is shown on the screen of an iPhone in front of an American flag and Chinese flag background in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2023.

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

A set of star-studded Silicon Valley venture capitalists has joined forces with a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers as part of a task force that has one purpose: Combating China’s influence in the U.S. tech industry, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The consortium is called the Hill & Valley Forum, the paper reported, a nod to the group’s bicoastal origins. The forum will host a dinner ahead of TikTok chief Shou Zi Chew’s congressional testimony next week, with speakers including prominent venture capitalists Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla, the newspaper reported.

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Representatives for Thiel and Khosla were not immediately available for comment.

TikTok’s possible influence over the American zeitgeist, particularly among younger or underage citizens, has increasingly worried lawmakers and regulators, who fear the app’s Chinese ownership exposes American users susceptible to China’s intelligence-gathering efforts.

Former Google global policy adviser Jacob Helberg, who heads the alliance, told the Journal that TikTok represents “the most potent espionage operation that China has ever conducted against the United States.”

TikTok’s popularity exploded during covid lockdowns. In 2021, TikTok’s Chinese parent company Bytedance said the app had reached one billion monthly active users, showing strong growth from December 2019, when it reported 507 million monthly users.

Now lawmakers, venture capitalists and lobbyists are pushing the government to ban or limit the app’s influence, citing a potent threat from the Chinese government.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, told ByteDance that unless the company’s Chinese owners divest their stake, CFIUS would move to ban the app, the company told CNBC on Thursday. The ultimatum came weeks after lawmakers urged committee to complete its year-long investigation into TikTok.

“There is no truth” to Helberg’s claims, a TikTok spokesperson told CNBC. The spokesperson added that TikTok had stored “all” new US user data “exclusively” with Oracle since October 2022.

Read more on the Wall Street Journal.

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