TikTok Denies Reports On US Call For Chinese Owners To Sell Stakes

TikTok, the popular short-video platform owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, responded on Wednesday to reports that the Joe Biden administration was urging its Chinese owners to divest their stakes in the social media platform, saying that such action would not be beneficial to national security. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was threatening to impose a ban on TikTok unless its Beijing-based owners, ByteDance Ltd., divested.

In response, TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan stated that “divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” as reported by Associated Press. Shanahan suggested that the optimal method to tackle national security concerns was to ensure that US user data and systems were protected in a transparent, US-based manner, coupled with third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification.

The Wall Street Journal report cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. The US Treasury Department and the National Security Council had declined to comment.

ALSO READ: TikTok Banned By Canada, US Gives 30-Day Ultimatum To Fed Agencies To Enforce Purge

Last month, the White House ordered all federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices within 30 days. The Office of Management and Budget referred to this directive as a “critical step forward in addressing the risks presented by the app to sensitive government data.” Certain agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State, already have restrictions in place, and the White House has already banned TikTok on its devices.

The “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” was passed by Congress in December as part of a comprehensive government funding package. The legislation permits the use of TikTok for national security, law enforcement, and research purposes.

ALSO READ: European Commission Bans TikTok On Official Devices Used By Employees: Report

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House and Senate have been developing legislation that would give the Biden administration greater authority to restrict TikTok’s operations. Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal critic of the app, stating that the Chinese Communist Party is utilizing it to “manipulate and monitor its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be used for their malign activities.”

TikTok, which is popular among two-thirds of US teens, has been dismissive of the ban on federal devices, stating that it is working on security and data privacy plans as part of the ongoing national security investigation by the Biden administration. Concerns are mounting that Beijing could gain control of American user data obtained via the app.

Back in 2020, TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps were banned completely in India (private and government usage), as they were deemed “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

This move was in response to a military clash between India and China in the disputed territory along the Ladakh-China border. Other popular Chinese apps such as Weibo and UC Browser were also banned in the process. 

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