The future of popular social media app TikTok in the United States is now more uncertain than ever. The new administration under President Joe Biden is demanding that its Chinese owners sell their stake in the platform, or risk facing a US ban of the app. This represents an escalation in pressure from Washington as national security concerns related to the app resurface. The US government believes that the app could be infiltrated by the Chinese government to spy on American users or spread propaganda to a US audience. This is not the first time TikTok has faced such an ultimatum from the government, and the current developments echo those from the past. In this article, we take a closer look at the issue and what you need to know about TikTok’s future in the US.
Important Details about The US government is once again threatening to ban TikTok. What you should know –
– The Biden administration is demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stake in the social media platform, or risk facing a US ban of the app.
– The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) issued the directive following years of negotiations.
– Some lawmakers have expressed concerns that the app could be infiltrated by the Chinese government to spy on American users or spread propaganda to a US audience.
– If TikTok’s Chinese owners do not comply, the app’s future in the US appears to be uncertain.
– TikTok CEO Shou Chew has denied that the Chinese government has ever asked for US user data, and has reiterated the company’s commitment to address lawmakers’ concerns.
– Privacy and security researchers have found no evidence that TikTok is inherently malicious or a form of spyware, but concerns focus on TikTok’s relationship with the Chinese government.
– India banned TikTok in 2020 following a border clash with China, and other countries have enacted bans on official government devices.
CNN — Biden Administration Follows Through with Threat to Ban TikTok in the United States Unless Chinese Owners Divest
After nearly two-and-a-half years of negotiations between TikTok and the multiagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the Biden administration has issued a directive demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest from the social media platform or risk facing a US ban. The move comes amid concerns that the Chinese government might use the app to infiltrate and spy on American users or spread propaganda to a US audience. These concerns are fuelled by the fact that any company doing business in China ultimately falls under Chinese Communist Party laws. Although privacy and security researchers who have examined TikTok’s app say that it is not intrinsically malicious or a form of spyware, the app and ByteDance, its parent company, are believed to pose a national security risk because of the possibility that the Chinese government has leverage over them.
This isn’t the first time that TikTok has faced a potential ban in the United States. In 2020, the Trump administration threatened to ban the app through executive order unless it was sold to a US-based company. That move was criticised by some as political theatre rooted in xenophobia, and the Biden administration subsequently rescinded the executive order while replacing it with a broader directive focused on investigating technology linked to foreign adversaries. Meanwhile, CFIUS continued to negotiate with TikTok in an effort to find a solution that would satisfy all parties.
However, the clouds have again gathered over the app as lawmakers in Washington have renewed their scrutiny of it, citing a report from last year which suggested that China-based employees had repeatedly accessed US user data. TikTok has disputed this report and has reiterated its previous commitments to addressing lawmakers’ concerns. The company’s CEO, Shou Chew, recently went on the record stating that the Chinese government has never asked for US user data, and the company would not provide it if asked. Chew also said that all US user data is stored in the Oracle Cloud infrastructure and is accessed only by US personnel.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is pushing for TikTok’s Chinese owners to sell their shares. TikTok has responded by stating that a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flow or access, and 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 TikTok is already implementing. However, critics argue that the public has no way of verifying whether and how the Chinese government has leverage over TikTok or ByteDance and that such leverage presents a significant risk to national security.
The ban of TikTok on official, government devices has already been implemented by a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Late last year, President Joe Biden signed legislation prohibiting TikTok on federal government devices, and more than half of US states have since enacted a similar ban at the state level. TikTok has criticised these moves as “little more than political theatre”. The app was banned in India in the summer of 2020, following a violent border clash between India and China, which disconnected more than 200 million users from the app.
The future of TikTok in the United States is uncertain, with the demand from the Biden administration representing an apparent escalation in pressure from Washington. While the app has only broadened its reach over American culture in recent years, it faces increasing opposition from lawmakers and the public over national security concerns. TikTok’s Chinese owners must now decide whether to divest from the app or risk losing access to one of the world’s largest markets.