U.S. threatens TikTok ban, demands Chinese owners sell stakes
March 16 (UPI) — The Biden administration is hardening its stance and threatening to ban TikTok in the United States, if the video app’s Chinese owners refuse to sell their stakes, the company has acknowledged.
The ultimatum by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed to CNN by TikTok, which admitted CFIUS had contacted the company about national security concerns.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan said in a statement Wednesday evening.
“A change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting and verification, which we are already implementing,” Shanahan added.
TikTok is one of the world’s most popular apps, with more than a billion users, including 135 million in the United States.
The social media platform, which is owned by the Chinese Internet company ByteDance, has been facing intense scrutiny over security and data privacy concerns amid fears the video app could be used to collect user data. The issue has grown more bipartisan amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over reports that U.S.-user data has been accessed by the Chinese government.
U.S. federal agencies were ordered last month to remove TikTok from all government devices, after the White House gave them 30 days to purge the app. Other countries have followed the United States’ lead, including the European Union and Canada, in banning TikTok on government phones. Britain is considering a similar measure.
Congress demanded the Office of Management and Budget remove the social media platform from all government devices last year, after passing the No TikTok on Government Devices Act.
“TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said in a statement after the measure passed in December. “It’s a major security risk to the United States and until it is forced to sever ties with China completely, it has no place on government devices.”
TikTok has denied allegations that it transfers data to the Chinese government, saying it operates no differently than other social media platforms.
TikTok’s chief executive officer will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to testify before Congress and address concerns about the app’s links to the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is expected to face questions about the app’s data security practices, as well as the platform’s impact on children, when he appears before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.
“Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security,” the committee said in a statement.
“We’ve made our concerns clear with TikTok. It is now time to continue the committee’s efforts to hold Big Tech accountable by bringing TikTok before the committee to provide complete and honest answers for people.”