U.S. Government Tells TikTok Owners To Sell App Or Face Ban

 

The United States government has threatened to ban TikTok in its territory if its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, does not sell its stake in the U.S. version of the app.

 

The move is said to be the most dramatic in a series of escalations by US officials and legislators, driven by fears that US user data held by the company could be passed on to China’s government.

 

It also comes amid a global backlash to the popular video-based app over concerns about the potential for Chinese spying, with countries including the UK, Canada and Australia recently moving to ban the app from government phones.

 

According to a report by Axios, the US has already banned TikTok on federal government devices but this marks the first time under President Joe Biden’s administration that a potential nationwide ban on TikTok has been threatened. Any US ban would face significant legal hurdles.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, tried to ban TikTok in 2020 but was blocked by the courts.

 

Brooke Oberwetter, TikTok spokesperson told Reuters that the company had recently heard from the US Treasury-led committee on foreign investment in the United States (CFIUS), which demanded that the Chinese owners of the app sell their shares, and said otherwise they would face a possible US ban of the video app.

 

TikTok is one of the world’s most popular social networks with more than 100 million US users.

 

According to The Journal, 60% of ByteDance shares are owned by global investors, 20% by employees and 20% by its founders. CFIUS, a powerful national security body in 2020 had unanimously recommended that ByteDance divest TikTok.

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“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,” Tiktok’s Oberwetter said in a statement.

 

The move comes as TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, is due to appear before the US Congress next week.

 

TikTok and CFIUS have been negotiating for more than two years on data security requirements. TikTok said it has spent more than $1.5bn on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.

 

TikTok said on Wednesday that “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”.

 

The news of a potential US ban followed reports this week that Britain is moving forward with its own plan to ban TikTok on government cell phones.

The European Commission announced a similar ban last month, and on Monday, Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, hinted that he may follow suit, saying he would take “whatever steps are necessary” to protect Britain’s security.

 

 

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