Biden admin to consider nationwide TikTok ban if Chinese parent doesn’t divest

Biden admin to consider nationwide TikTok ban if Chinese parent doesn’t divest

  • Finance
  • March 16, 2023
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The Biden administration wants TikTok’s Chinese parent company to divest itself of the popular social media platform or it could face a possible nationwide ban, TikTok confirmed to CBS News on Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States Committee on Foreign Investments (CFIUS) recently requested the divestment, and a TikTok spokesman did not dispute that account.

The Treasury Department, of which CFIUS is a part, declined to comment. The White House and National Security Council also declined to comment.

“If protecting national security is the goal, the divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” Maureen Shanahan, spokeswoman for TikTok, told CBS News in a statement.

“The best way to address national security concerns is transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems with robust third-party monitoring, screening, and verification that we already implement,” added Shanahan.

A spokesman for TikTok also said that it was not exactly clear what the sale would actually look like and that no specific details would be given to the company. It was not clear if the company was given a deadline.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has already been banned on federal government devices, including military ones, and more than half of US states have also banned the app on state government devices. There is growing bipartisan support for a full nationwide ban over possible national security concerns.

“TikTok is a modern day Trojan horse [Chinese Communist Party]used to monitor and exploit Americans’ personal information,” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in February. “It’s a spy balloon in your phone.”

In a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google in February, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote: “Unlike most social media platforms, TikTok faces a unique problem as Chinese law prohibits ByteDance obliges Beijing-based parent company to ‘support, support and cooperate with the work of the state intelligence agency’.”

As CBS News previously reported, TikTok, like many other tech companies, tracks users’ personal information, including phone numbers, email addresses, contacts, and Wi-Fi networks.

“We have national security concerns,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said last year. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection from millions of users.”

Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, told CBS News in December that the concern was overdone and “makes for good politics.” He said TikTok collects less data than other social media apps and is working to move user data to servers in the US, out of China’s reach.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is expected to testify before the House Energy and Trade Committee later this month, and is expected to face tough questioning about the company’s data collection and sharing practices.

– Caitlin Yilek, Scott MacFarlane and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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