US TikTok ban threat: White House demands Chinese owners sell shares or face potential nationwide ban
The US government has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their shares or face a potential ban on the app in America.
The news emerged on Wednesday that the Biden administration was taking dramatic steps to potentially block the video-sharing app in the US amid fears of its user data being shared with the Chinese government.
It’s the first time under the administration that a ban has been threatened.
In 2020, Donald Trump was impeded by US courts when he tried to ban TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance.
TikTok, which has more than 100 million US users, has already been stifled by the White House after it ordered government agencies to delete the app on federal devices and systems.
More than 30 states followed suit, preventing staff from using the social media platform on government-owned devices.
China denounced the US over its TikTok bans, saying it has been “abusing state power”.
Some are suggesting a nationwide ban, as Republicans and Democrats joined forces late last year to unveil bipartisan legislation that would enforce such an option.
It’s not only in America where TikTok has come under fire – Canada announced the app posed an “unacceptable risk” and banned it from government devices, as has the European Commission, Belgium and The Netherlands.
Taiwan and Afghanistan have also enforced their own bans, with India blocking TikTok completely.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter confirmed the possible ban but said: “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”
The White House declined to comment.
Why governments are considering TikTok bans
ByteDance had failed to strike a deal with Walmart and Oracle to shift TikTok’s US assets into a new entity under the Trump administration.
TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew will appear before Congress next week and it remains to be seen if the Chinese
government would approve of a sale, nor did the Chinese Embassy in Washington make any immediate comments.
The app said it has spent more than $1.5bn on data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.
TikTok said: “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification.”
On TikTok’s national security risks, Democratic senator Mark Warner said last week: “It’s going to be incumbent on the government to show its cards in terms of how this is a threat.”