President Joe Biden's administration is threatening to ban TikTok in the United States unless its Chinese owners agree to sell their share of the popular social media platform.
The administration's ultimatum was announced by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a U.S. multiagency panel, during multiyear ongoing negotiations between federal officials regarding the app's ties to China amid conflicts between the two global powers, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday (March 15). TikTok, which has more than 100 million American users, later confirmed the Wall Street Journal's report to CNN, acknowledging that CFIUS contacted the company, but declining to share specific details about the US. government's request.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” said TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan in a statement shared to CNN. “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 US user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”
Chinese officials claimed that the U.S. was "unreasonably suppressing" TikTok and sharing "false information" regarding the app's data security.
“The US side has so far failed to produce evidence that Tik Tok threatens US national security,” said Wang Wenbin, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, at a regular press briefing.
TikTok has been in negotiations with CFIUS for more than two years in hopes of government officials allowing the app to continue operations in the U.S. market as it faces concerns over security and privacy. American officials have publicly expressed fears that the Chinese government may use national security laws to pressure the social media platform or its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, of sharing U.S. users' personal information, which could benefit Chinese intelligence or influence campaigns, CNN reports.