TikTok is a platform currently hosting over a billion global users, but the U.S. has threatened to ban the app if ByteDance doesn’t sell it.
The U.S. had had “potential security risk” concerns over the Chinese-owned and operated social media platform TikTok since 2020, when the Trump administration threatened to ban the app due to potential information leaks to the Chinese government. This escalated once again in 2022 when FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr echoed these sentiments, including accusations of “swaths of sensitive data being accessed in Beijing.”
The government then went on to ban the app from government officials’ devices in December due to further security concerns regarding the app. Yesterday, the Biden administration doubled down on the countrywide app ban unless the Chinese-operated ByteDance divests its stakes in the company, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that TikTok said they will invest “$1.5 billion on a program to safeguard U.S. user data and content from Chinese government access or influence.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for TikTok, Brooke Oberwetter, commented, “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,” regarding the demand for sale from ByteDance.
She added, “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”
The U.S. problem with TikTok is the constant citation of China’s national security law, which would allow companies to turn over sensitive data if requested. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco used this as a buffer for security concerns over the app in a report from CNBC back in February 2023, saying, “I don’t use TikTok, and I would not advise anybody to do so because of these concerns.”
This news comes as TikTok continues its global rise, even venturing into spaces typically reserved for platforms like Twitch, with gaming and other content growing. As a major player in the social media space, and with companies like Meta looking to emulate its success, it is no wonder that all eyes are on the Chinese-owned social media giant.
Fans of TikTok can read the whole WSJ report by heading over to their site. While no immediate ban has been placed on the app yet, this situation will surely escalate before matters settle in the near future.