TikTok Dismisses US Calls for Chinese Owners to Sell Stakes

TikTok on Wednesday dismissed reports that the Biden administration was asking its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the popular video-sharing app, saying such a move would not help protect national security.

The company was responding to a report in The Wall Street Journal that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, part of the Treasury Department, was threatening to ban the app in the United States unless its owners, ByteDance Ltd. , based in Beijing, were disbanded. .

“If the goal is to protect national security, divestiture does not solve the problem: a change in ownership would not place new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan said. “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”.

The WSJ report cited “anonymous people familiar with the matter.” The Treasury Department and the White House National Security Council declined to comment.

Late last month, the White House gave all federal agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from all government devices.

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The Office of Management and Budget called the guidance a “critical step in addressing the risks that the app presents to sensitive government data.” Some agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State, already have restrictions. The White House no longer allows TikTok on its devices.

Congress passed the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” in December as part of a sweeping government funding package. The law allows the use of TikTok in certain cases, including for national security, law enforcement, and investigative purposes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been moving forward with legislation that would give the Biden administration more power to clamp down on TikTok.

Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been outspoken in criticizing the app, saying the Chinese Communist Party is using it to “manipulate and monitor its users while gobbling up Americans’ data to use for its purposes”. evil activities.”

“Anyone with TikTok downloaded to their device has given the CCP a back door for all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon on your phone,” the Texas Republican said.

TikTok remains extremely popular and is used by two-thirds of teens in the US. But there are growing concerns that Beijing could gain control of the data of American users the app has obtained.

The company has brushed aside the federal device ban, saying it is developing data privacy and security plans as part of the Biden administration’s ongoing national security review.

Meanwhile, China accused the United States on Thursday of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok.

The United States has yet to produce evidence that TikTok threatens its national security and was using the excuse of data security to abuse its power to crack down on foreign companies, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang told reporters. Wenbin, at a daily briefing.

“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.

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China has long been concerned about the influence of social media and communication apps abroad, banning most of the best-known ones, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

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