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The Biden Administration has reportedly told TikTok executives that the service could be banned completely in the US if China does not sell its stake in the firm.
The long-running tensions between the US and social media platform TikTok have already seen President Trump signing an executive order requiring the firm to be sold. That was beaten in the courts, but pressure toward a ban hasn’t ceased.
According to the Wall Street Journal, unnamed sources say that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) made the demand that Chinese owners sell their shares in TikTok. TikTok is owned by the Beijing-based firm of ByteDance, but TikTok says 60% of the shares of that firm are owned by global investors.
TikTok also says that the remaining 40% is split evenly between employees and the company’s founders.
Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, further said that a forced sale would not address the Biden Administration’s stated concerns about security.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” Oberwetter told the Wall Street Journal. “[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, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems,” she continued, “with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.
TikTok says it has already pledged $1.5 billion on a program that would see US data stored on only US servers. The social media firm has been negotiating with CFIUS for over two years on this issue, but discussions have reportedly been stalled for months.
According to the Wall Street Journal, representatives from the Pentagon and Justice Department in the negotiations are in favor of a forced sale.
Reportedly, critics of the promise to store US user data within the States argue that TikTok would still be beholden to Chinese laws.
Separately, a new bipartisan bill ostensibly aimed at protecting the US from any social media service, was really targeted solely at TikTok.
Now the UK government has announced that it is banning TikTok on its staff’s phones. The move follows a similar one in the US in December 2022.