According to reports, the Biden administration is considering banning TikTok unless its Chinese owners divest their stakes in the popular video-sharing app.
Late Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that executives at ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, were recently asked by officials from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency task force responsible for assessing national security risks in business deals, to sell their stakes or face a potential ban on the app’s use in the US.
ByteDance has numerous well-documented connections to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The recent demand from officials at CFIUS to TikTok owner ByteDance is a significant escalation in the ongoing scrutiny of the popular video-sharing app on Capitol Hill. The app has been subject to bipartisan criticism over fears that the Chinese government could potentially gain improper access to the data of American users, making this ultimatum a major development.
The move has also aligned the Biden administration closer with the position taken by former President Donald Trump in 2020. Trump had also sought to ban TikTok, but a federal court thwarted his efforts.
An anonymous source from TikTok has expressed confusion regarding the demands made by CFIUS, as ByteDance’s shares are owned by multiple global investment firms, making it difficult to sell everything quickly. In response to the threat of a ban, TikTok has initiated “Project Texas,” which aims to separate the backend functions and coding of its American operations from its Chinese-owned headquarters.
The company issued a statement criticizing the idea of forced divestment, stating that a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access and would not solve the problem of safeguarding national security.
The statement went on to claim, “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, which we are already implementing.”
TikTok is a social media app that was initially created for the purpose of lip-syncing popular songs but has since expanded to include a variety of content. Many social media influencers have gained fame through their TikTok videos. The app has over 100 million users in the United States alone.