US Government Demands TikTok Ownership Change Amid National Security Concerns

The US government has warned TikTok, the popular video-sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, that it must change ownership or face a potential ban in the country.

American officials have expressed concerns about national security risks due to the data collected from millions of users, fearing that it could fall into the hands of the Chinese government.

The US government’s concerns about TikTok have been ongoing for years, mainly due to the app’s ownership by Chinese company ByteDance.

Demands for Divestment from ByteDance

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) has unanimously recommended that ByteDance divest from TikTok to create a clear separation from China.

This marks the first time that the Biden administration has threatened a ban on TikTok, echoing the stance of former President Donald Trump.

TikTok confirmed the request for a change in ownership to BBC News.

However, a spokesperson for the company stated that the reporting was overstated and it was unclear what “divestiture” meant in practice.

TikTok’s Response and “Project Texas”

TikTok argues that a forced sale would not change its data flows or access, and that the best way to address national security concerns is through transparent, US-based protection of user data and systems.

The company has proposed a $1.5 billion plan called “Project Texas,” which involves storing all data on American users in the US and routing its traffic through Oracle’s servers.

Under this plan, Oracle engineers would be able to inspect TikTok’s source code.

Despite the threat of a ban, TikTok maintains its commitment to moving forward with Project Texas.

New Legislation and Upcoming Testimony

The development follows the recent unveiling of the Restrict Act in the Senate, which could expand the president’s authority to ban TikTok nationwide.

The legislation would allow the US Commerce Department to declare foreign-linked companies as national security risks.

TikTok is currently banned on government phones in the US, Canada, and the EU.

TikTok’s Chief Executive, Shou Zi Chew, is scheduled to testify before the US Congress next week in a highly anticipated hearing.

History of US Government Concerns Over TikTok

The US government’s concerns about TikTok have been ongoing for years, mainly due to the app’s ownership by Chinese company ByteDance.

The primary issue is the potential national security risk that TikTok poses by collecting vast amounts of data from millions of users in the United States.

The fear is that this data could be passed on to the Chinese government, as China’s national security law requires companies to turn over data if requested by the government.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok, citing national security concerns.

However, a deal was reached in which Oracle and Walmart would acquire a stake in the company and oversee its US operations.

The deal was never finalized due to legal challenges and changes in the US administration.

Under President Joe Biden’s administration, the focus on TikTok has continued. In March 2023, the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) recommended that ByteDance divest from TikTok to create a clear separation from China.

This marked the first time the Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok, echoing Trump’s previous stance.

Article In a Snapshot

  • The US government has warned TikTok to change ownership or face a potential ban due to national security concerns related to user data.
  • The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) recommended ByteDance divest from TikTok, marking the first time the Biden administration has threatened a ban.
  • TikTok has proposed “Project Texas,” a $1.5 billion plan to address security concerns by storing US user data in the US and routing traffic through Oracle’s servers.
  • The Restrict Act, recently unveiled in the Senate, could expand the president’s authority to ban TikTok nationwide by declaring foreign-linked companies as national security risks.
  • TikTok’s Chief Executive, Shou Zi Chew, is scheduled to testify before the US Congress in a highly anticipated hearing next week.

Craig Miller

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