Why the US wants to ban TikTok News-thread


youhe contentious debate over the future of TikTok reached a new peak Wednesday after the Biden Administration threatened to ban the popular video-sharing app nationwide unless its Chinese owner promised to sell its stake in the company, TikTok confirmed to TIME. . The recent divestment lawsuit was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The apparent ultimatum from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) marks a major escalation by White House officials in lengthy negotiations between ByteDance, the Beijing-based company’s owner, and officials Feds who say TikTok’s link to China poses a potential national security threat.

Why does the US want to ban TikTok?

Since its launch in 2016, the app has grown in popularity to more than 1 billion active users, including more than 100 million in the US. But its growth stems from concerns from federal officials and security experts that the Communist Party of China (CCP) could have unlimited access. to sensitive data the company collects about Americans. As a Chinese company, ByteDance is subject to a national security law that requires it to hand over data to Chinese authorities if requested.

“The biggest problem is that users are largely unaware of the true risks of foreign governments using their user data,” says Anton Dahbura, executive director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University. “People would be surprised how our breadcrumb trails from our mobile devices and other platforms can be used in different ways that can be a threat to national security.”

The push to ban TikTok in the US is largely led by Republican lawmakers in Congress who are concerned that ByteDance could be using user data to track browsing history and location and potentially fuel disinformation efforts. Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who sponsored the TikTok ban bill, said: “Anyone with TikTok downloaded to their device has given the CCP a back door. to all your personal information. It’s a spy balloon on your phone.” more democratswho have not talked as much about the advancement of these security measures in the past, are beginning to show your support publicly.

TikTok, however, insists that the CFIUS divestment lawsuit will not address security concerns. “If the goal is to protect national security, divestiture does not solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose new restrictions on data flow or access,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. “National security concerns are best addressed with transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust monitoring, investigation, and third-party verification , which we are already implementing”.

With political pressure mounting, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to testify next week on Capitol Hill, where he is expected to be questioned by lawmakers from both parties about the perceived security risks the app presents.

Which countries have already banned TikTok?

Several countries have already taken the step to cut some level of ties with the platform.

In 2020, India imposed a ban against several Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok and WeChat, due to privacy and security concerns amid ongoing tensions at the China-India border. Pakistan has temporarily banned TikTok at least four times, citing concerns that the app promotes immoral content. The Taliban government of Afghanistan banned the app in 2022 for “Leading the youth astray.”

Meanwhile, several governments, including Canada, the US, and Taiwan, have taken steps to restrict access to the app on government-issued devices. On Thursday, the UK became the latest country to ban TikTok on government devices.

What does this mean for TikTok users?

Users of the platform are worried about what a possible ban could mean for them, particularly for the content creators who make their living from TikTok. creator background payments and brand endorsements. Top earners on the platform can earn up to $250,000 for a sponsored post, according to Forbes. “So who’s going to tell the Biden administration that some of us have built our literal careers on TikTok and if it’s banned, we’ll actually have nothing?” tweeted an user

Faced with uncertainty about the future of the app, TikTokers have been sharing their complaints on the platform. “Well guys, it’s been fun, but it looks like it’s over for us. We have learnt a lot. We have laughed. We have cried”, says a joking user. in a video with more than 100,000 visits. The video’s top comment reads, “See you on VPN Tok,” one of countless user comments suggesting they’ll try to get around a potential ban by using a virtual private network to access the app.

The TikTok ban could open the door for other companies, like Meta’s Instagram, to fill the video-sharing void. In October, Twitter CEO Elon Musk said he was thinking of bringing back Vine, the short-form video app that was discontinued in 2019.

Will the divestment make TikTok more secure?

TikTok has been in negotiations with CFIUS over national security requirements for more than two years. Chew, CEO of TikTok, told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the company’s sale will not resolve US national security concerns about the app.

Instead, the social media platform says it has pledged to spend $1.5 billion to protect US users’ data and content from Chinese government access or influence. The plan involves hiring US-based Oracle Corp.. to store user data. “I welcome feedback on what other risk we’re talking about that isn’t addressed in this,” Chew said. “So far I haven’t heard anything that can’t be resolved by this.”

Shouzi Chew, CEO of TikTok Inc., during an interview at TikTok’s office in New York, USA, on Thursday, February 17, 2022.

Christopher Goodney—Bloomberg/Getty Images

TikTok has also said that 60% of ByteDance’s shares are owned by global investors, including US investment giants BlackRock, General Atlantic and Sequoia. (However, like most startups, ByteDance’s founders hold a majority stake in the company.) Chew confirmed to diary ByteDance has been actively thinking about a TikTok public offering, but added that “there is no concrete plan at this News-thread.”

The TikTok ownership debate has become a major flashpoint in the US-China conflict, creating a major challenge for the Biden Administration as it grapples with the new reality of an internet dominated by non-US companies.

“It’s not clear to me that the sale itself would do much,” says Harry Broadman, a former CFIUS official. “But this is opening up a larger debate about what methods the US government will take to safeguard the supposed personal information of US citizens. The TikTok theme is a reference for that conversation.”

“Divestment is just a path, a tool that could be used,” Broadman adds. “It’s the obvious choice, but the question is: is that enough?”

Last week, the White House backed a bipartisan bill that would give the Commerce Department broad authority to ban or limit TikTok and other apps rooted in foreign countries, even as efforts to ban a social media platform used by more than 100 million of Americans could be thwarted. challenged under the First Amendment.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Thursday that the United States has yet to provide evidence that TikTok threatens its national security and was using the excuse of data security to abuse its power. to suppress foreign countries.

“The United States should stop spreading data security misinformation, stop suppressing the relevant company, and provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies to invest in and operate in the United States,” Wang said.

Broadman, who has served on CFIUS, said the committee is likely considering several other options besides requiring TikTok’s parent company to sell its ownership stake in the app. One option, he says, is to give TikTok the go-ahead for its “Texas Project.” plan, which would subject the app to closer government oversight than any US social media company has ever faced. The plan involves hiring US government-approved employees and board members to run what would be a US-based subsidiary of TikTok.

“The question for CFIUS now is whether their decision sets a precedent for the next case that comes their way, whether from China or from another country,” says Broadman.

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write to Mariah Espada at mariah.espada@News-thread.com and Nik Popli at nik.popli@News-thread.com.


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