The Biden administration is demanding that the Chinese owners of TikTok either divest their stakes in the app or face a potential ban in the U.S., the company told Reuters on March 15. The move adds drama to tensions that have been brewing for years. What’s all the fuss about?
The U.S. government is reportedly demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stake in the company.
What if they do not want to?
In that case the U.S. could move to ban the app all together.
The threatened action is not new.
Republican President Trump tried to ban the app in the U.S. in 2020, but was blocked in court.
This is the first time, however, that a Democratic president is allegedly threatening to ban the app.
What is the risk of TikTok to the U.S. and has the app violated any user data rights?
“I think part of it is that TikTok has become so popular. We are talking about 130 million users within the U.S. - meteoric rise. You are seeing it walled off from a government perspective, the U.S. as well as in the U.K., but I think this is really what needs to be proven out and I think it is going to be a big focus of the congressional testimony next week for TikTok’s CEO.” Managing Director at Wedbush Securities, Daniel Ives told CGTN.
TikTok is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance which in turn is mostly owned by global investors. The U.S. claims that TikTok could pose a threat to U.S. national security.
However, according to a statement from TikTok, a change in ownership would not impact data flows. Moreover, an imposed U.S. ban on TikTok would face legal obstacles.
“It is a dangerous precedent that it sets, because ultimately if it is TikTok, what could be next? And obviously when you have the U.S. and China one way or another, they are so co-dependent on each other when it comes to demand as well as the supply chain” added Ives.
To address perceived risks, the company has a $1.5 billion plan to safeguard U.S. user and content.
In a March 15 statement, TikTok said this U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data is the best way to address concerns.
It added that the protection would come with third-party monitoring, verification, and vetting.
“The steps that TikTok is taking is a step in the right direction. Is it enough? I think that is the question. We’ve got to see as this plays out because it is all a political game of high stakes poker as well” said Ives.
Where does Beijing stand?
"Data security should not be used by a certain country to abuse the national security concept and state power to suppress foreign companies. The U.S. has yet to present evidence that TikTok threatens its national security” Said Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.