After months of intensifying scrutiny over TikTok’s user-data policies and national-security implications, the White House is reportedly “demanding” that Beijing-headquartered ByteDance sell its stake in the short-form app or grapple with a possible stateside ban.
This latest twist in the growing crackdown on TikTok, which is prohibited on government devices in the U.S. (federally and in north of 20 states), the EU, Canada, and elsewhere, just recently came to light in a report from the Wall Street Journal. Of course, the ultra-popular platform has long been the subject of privacy-related criticism.
But the opposition has ramped up dramatically during the past five or so months, including with the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would outlaw TikTok in the States altogether. Meanwhile, the FCC, the FBI, the NSA, and top Justice Department officials alike have publicly expressed concerns about TikTok, the parent company of which is owned in part by (and must provide any requested data to) the Chinese Communist Party.
And it’s against this backdrop that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and TikTok have for more than two years been in negotiations, with previous reports having indicated that the Treasury Department-led entity was pushing for a forced sale.
Now, as mentioned at the outset, the White House has reportedly formalized said push by calling on ByteDance to cash out of TikTok – or face the reality of the service’s ban throughout the U.S.
The Journal, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter, indicated that CFIUS had “made the sale demand recently.” Predictably, TikTok has fired back against this reported demand in the media, with a company spokesperson claiming that “a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”
“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,” said the TikTok rep, whose company is reportedly willing to spend $1.5 billion on a program that it claims would safeguard U.S. user data.
Time will tell whether the domestic TikTok ban comes to fruition, and while the service continues to play a significant role in the contemporary music industry, the RIAA earlier this week took aim at the platform, claiming that it “exploits recorded music to build an audience.”
Finally, TikTok’s seldom-discussed CEO, having visited with a number of lawmakers in recent weeks, is scheduled to testify before Congress next Thursday, March 23rd.