Science, Technology, and Social Media

US Threatens TikTok’s Chinese Owners With Ban Unless They Sell App

The U.S. Treasury Department demanded TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance divest from the app in order to prevent a ban on the platform in the U.S., a company spokeswoman confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The White House announced on Jan. 13 that TikTok would be banned on all federal employee devices and multiple states had previously enacted their own bans regarding the app in an effort to protect sensitive U.S. data, according to Reuters. On Wednesday, the Treasury Department, via the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), informed the Chinese platform that it would ban the app in the U.S. if the app’s Chinese owners did not divest their shares.

TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan told the DCNF in a prepared statement that “divestment doesn’t solve the problem.”

“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” Shanahan said. “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”

The app was created by Zhang Yiming and ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo in 2012 in Beijing, with 20% of the app’s ownership held by the founders and 60% by global investors, according to The Wall Street Journal. The department’s demand comes just after it was revealed that TikTok was considering splitting from ByteDance in order to assuage concerns regarding national security.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s Chinese ownership, after multiple reports have shown that TikTok user data was able to be accessed by Chinese employees.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is also the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Republican John Thune of South Dakota have been working to create legislation that would empower the Commerce Department to manage the risks of foreign technology, highlighting TikTok’s potential threats, according to a March 7 press release.

The U.S. Treasury Department and ByteDance did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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