The Biden administration has warned TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to spin off its shares in the social media app or risk facing a ban.
The ultimatum came from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), highlighting the U.S. government’s rising data privacy concerns relating to the app, which is used by more than 100 million people in the country.
The U.S. government has argued that ByteDance may be pressured to hand over the personal data of U.S. users under China’s national security laws, which could then be used to launch influence campaigns and benefit Chinese intelligence activities. This concern has also been echoed by governments all over the globe, with many countries, including the U.S., Canada and the European Union banning the use of TikTok on government devices.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan said in a statement. “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, US-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”
In response to rising pressure, TikTok has reportedly escalated its lobbying efforts in Washington D.C., to avert a complete ban.
The Chinese government has called U.S. efforts’ “unreasonably suppressing,” spreading “false information” about data security.
“The U.S. side has so far failed to produce evidence that Tik Tok threatens U.S. national security,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.