The Biden administration is reportedly demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stake in the social media platform or face a ban in the United States. According to a report by CNN, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is now putting pressure on TikTok after years of negotiations between the company and the US government. The CFIUS previously forced the sale of LGBTQ dating app Grindr from Chinese ownership in 2019. The US government has raised concerns over TikTok being infiltrated by the Chinese government, potentially allowing access to US user data or using the platform for propaganda purposes. These concerns come after a report last year suggested US user data had been repeatedly accessed by China-based employees. TikTok has disputed the report.
Why is TikTok being threatened with a ban?
The US government is concerned that TikTok could be a potential national security risk if it falls under Chinese Communist Party laws. Privacy and security researchers have examined TikTok’s app and say it is no different from other social networks in terms of the data it collects or how it communicates with company servers. However, the concern focuses on TikTok and ByteDance’s relationship with the Chinese government, and whether the Chinese government has leverage over TikTok or its parent company. India banned TikTok in 2020 following a border clash between the country and China, while other countries including the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom have also enacted bans of TikTok on official government devices.
What has TikTok said?
TikTok’s CEO Shou Chew has previously stated that the company has never been asked for US user data by the Chinese government, adding that all US user data is stored in Oracle Cloud infrastructure, controlled by US personnel. TikTok has also stressed that misinformation and propaganda has no place on the platform, and that the best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, which they are already implementing. A TikTok spokesperson also commented that a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access, and the best way to protect national security is through transparency, US-based protection of US user data and systems, and robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification.