U.S. pushes TikTok to address national security concerns
WASHINGTON — TikTok said Wednesday that the Biden administration wants TikTok’s Chinese ownership to sell the app or face a possible ban, as the White House tightened its stance on addressing national security concerns about the popular video service.
The new demand to sell the app has been delivered to TikTok in recent weeks, two people familiar with the matter said. TikTok is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance.
The move is a major shift in the Biden administration’s stance on TikTok, which has been under scrutiny over concerns that Beijing could obtain Americans’ data from the app. The White House has been trying to negotiate a deal with TikTok that would apply new protections to its data and eliminate the need for ByteDance to sell its stake in the app.
But the need for a sale — coupled with White House support for legislation that would allow it to ban TikTok in the United States — has reinforced the administration’s approach. This is reminiscent of the position of former President Donald J. Trump, who threatened to ban TikTok unless it was sold to an American company.
TikTok said it was weighing options and was disappointed with the decision. The company said its security proposal, which involves storing the data of Americans in the United States, provides the best protection for users.
“If protecting national security is the goal, divestment is not the answer: the change of ownership does not impose any new restrictions on data flow or access,” TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan said in a statement.
TikTok CEO Shouzi Zhou is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. He is expected to face questions about the app’s ties to China and concerns it provides harmful content to young people.
A White House spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Treasury Department, which is leading the talks with TikTok. The Justice Department also declined to comment.sales demand reported earlier By The Wall Street Journal.
TikTok, which has 100 million U.S. users, is at the center of a struggle between the Biden administration and the Chinese government over technological and economic leadership and national security. President Biden has launched a broad campaign against China, rolling out massive funding programs to increase domestic production of semiconductors, electric vehicles and lithium batteries. The administration has also banned Chinese telecommunications equipment and restricted U.S. exports of chip-making equipment to China.
The fight over TikTok began in 2020 when Mr Trump said he would ban the app unless ByteDance sold its stake to a US company, a move sponsored by a group called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States ( recommended by the federal agency CFIUS).
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The Trump administration finally appears to have reached a deal, with ByteDance selling some of TikTok to U.S. cloud computing companies Oracle and Walmart. But the potential deal never materialized.
CFIUS staff and TikTok continue to negotiate an agreement that would allow the app to operate in the United States. TikTok submitted a major draft of an agreement in August — what TikTok calls “Project Texas.” Under the proposal, the company said it would store data belonging to U.S. users on server computers in the United States run by Oracle.
TikTok officials have not heard back from CFIUS officials since submitting the proposal, the company said.
In this vacuum, concerns about the app have grown. States, schools and Congress have imposed bans on TikTok. Last year, a company investigation found that ByteDance’s Chinese employees had access to the data of American TikTok users, including journalists.
Brendan Carr, a Republican at the FCC, said the administration’s new request was a “good sign” that the White House was taking a tougher line.
“There is bipartisan agreement that we cannot compromise on US national security when it comes to TikTok, so I hope the CFIUS review will now end quickly in a way that preserves US interests,” Mr. Carr said.
The White House last week backed a bipartisan Senate bill that would give it more powers to deal with TikTok, including banning the app. If passed, the legislation would give the government more clout in negotiations with the app and could allow it to force a sale.
Any effort to ban the app or force its sale could face legal challenges. A federal court ultimately rejected Mr. Trump’s attempt to block the app from appearing in Apple and Google’s app stores. The American Civil Liberties Union recently condemned legislation to ban the app, saying it raised First Amendment concerns.