Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, arrives for a Democratic policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

U.S. Sen. Angus King is still known by many Mainers for the laptop program he instituted as governor. The 78-year-old runs his own Instagram account and even published a coffee-table book compiling his posts.

But TikTok — which was briefly the most popular social media platform last year — is not his thing. On Friday, King joined with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, to propose a U.S. ban of TikTok and other platforms under the influence of foreign adversaries, including China and Russia.

What it would do: The bill would ban TikTok unless it splits from ByteDance, a Chinese tech giant that has drawn scrutiny for close ties with the country’s leadership and pro-regime censorship on the platform.

The site is immensely popular, with about 80 million U.S. users with roughly 62 percent of them under the age of 30, according to Wallaroo Media estimates. But roughly 30 states have taken action to ban TikTok on official devices, including Maine, where the administration of Gov. Janet Mills instructed state employees to remove the app from state devices and personal ones regularly connected to state networks by Feb. 1.

Political implications: While Republicans have generally been the most outspoken about TikTok, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said this weekend that Congress should consider a ban. Republicans have often focused on the company’s ties to China’s communist leaders.

The leadership on the issue from King, an independent who operates in the Senate effectively as a Democrat, could show the possibility for a bipartisan deal on the matter.

What they’re saying: The company has said it does not share data with the regime, but U.S. officials are skeptical. TikTok has been flagged for aggressively mining data. In a statement, King said every Chinese company must share data with the government, arguing there is no separation between leaders and industry.

“The company must either divest from dangerous foreign ownership, or we will take the necessary steps to protect Americans from potential foreign spying and misinformation operations,” King said.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...