Friday, March 31, 2023
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The US government is once again threatening to ban TikTok. What you should know | CNN Business


Nearly two-and-a-half years after the Trump administration threatened to ban TikTok within the United States if it didn’t divest from its Chinese house owners, the Biden administration is now doing the identical.

TikTok acknowledged to CNN this week that federal officers are demanding the app’s Chinese owners sell their stake within the social media platform, or threat going through a US ban of the app.

The new directive comes from the multiagency Committee on Foreign Investment within the United States (CFIUS), following years of negotiations between TikTok and the federal government physique. (CFIUS is identical group that beforehand pressured a sale of LGBTQ dating app Grindr from Chinese possession again in 2019.)

The ultimatum from the US authorities represents an obvious escalation in strain from Washington as extra lawmakers as soon as once more elevate nationwide safety considerations concerning the app. Suddenly, TikTok’s future within the United States seems extra unsure – however this time, it comes after years by which the app has solely broadened its reach over American culture.

Here’s what it’s best to know.

Some in Washington have expressed considerations that the app might be infiltrated by the Chinese authorities to primarily spy on American customers or acquire entry to US person knowledge. Others have raised alarms over the likelihood that the Chinese authorities may use the app to unfold propaganda to a US viewers. At the center of each is an underlying concern that any firm doing enterprise in China finally falls below Chinese Communist Party legal guidelines.

Other considerations raised are usually not distinctive to TikTok, however extra broadly concerning the potential for social media platforms to guide youthful customers down dangerous rabbit holes.

If this newest growth is supplying you with déjà vu, that’s as a result of it echoes the saga TikTok already went via within the United States that kicked off in 2020, when the Trump administration first threatened it with a ban through government order if it didn’t promote itself to a US-based firm.

Oracle and Walmart have been instructed as consumers, social media creators were in a frenzy, and TikTok kicked off a lengthy legal battle in opposition to the US authorities. Some critics on the time blasted then-president Donald Trump’s campaign in opposition to the app as political theater rooted in xenophobia, calling out Trump’s uncommon suggestion that the United States should get a “cut” of any deal if it pressured the app’s sale to an American agency.

A logo of ByteDance at its office in Beijing, China July 7, 2020.

The Biden administration finally rescinded the Trump-era government order concentrating on TikTok, however changed it with a broader directive centered on investigating expertise linked to overseas adversaries, together with China. Meanwhile, CFIUS continued negotiations to strike a potential deal that might permit the app to proceed working within the United States. Then scrutiny started to kick up once more in Washington.

Lawmakers renewed their scrutiny of TikTok for its ties to China via its father or mother firm, ByteDance, after a report final yr instructed US person knowledge had been repeatedly accessed by China-based workers. TikTok has disputed the report.

In uncommon remarks earlier this month at a Harvard Business Review convention, TikTok CEO Shou Chew doubled down on the corporate’s prior commitments to handle the lawmakers’ considerations.

“The Chinese government has actually never asked us for US user data,” Chew mentioned, “and we’ve said this on the record, that even if we where asked for that, we will not provide that.” Chew added that “all US user data is stored, by default, in the Oracle Cloud infrastructure” and “access to that data is completely controlled by US personnel.”

TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew is interviewed at offices the company uses on Tuesday February 14, 2023 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As for the considerations that the Chinese authorities may use the app to spew propaganda to a US viewers, Chew emphasised that this might be dangerous for enterprise, noting that some 60% of TikTok’s house owners are international traders. “Misinformation and propaganda has no place on our platform, and our users do not expect that,” he mentioned.

In response to the CFIUS divestiture request, a TikTok spokesperson advised CNN this week {that a} change in possession wouldn’t impression how US person knowledge is accessed.

“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan mentioned in a press release. “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.”

TikTok is basically solely a nationwide safety threat insofar because the Chinese authorities could have leverage over TikTok or its father or mother firm. China has nationwide safety legal guidelines that require firms below its jurisdiction to cooperate with a broad vary of safety actions. The primary concern is that the general public has few methods of verifying whether or not or how that leverage has been exercised. (TikTok doesn’t function in China, however ByteDance does.)

Privacy and security researchers who’ve seemed below the hood at TikTok’s app say that, so far as they will inform, TikTok isn’t a lot completely different from different social networks by way of the information it collects or the way it communicates with firm servers. That’s nonetheless plenty of personally revealing data, however it doesn’t suggest that TikTok’s app itself is inherently malicious or a type of adware.

That’s why the priority actually focuses on TikTok and ByteDance’s relationship to the Chinese authorities, and why the Biden administration is pushing for TikTok’s Chinese house owners to promote their shares.

India banned TikTok in the summertime of 2020, following a violent border conflict between the nation and China, in a transfer that abruptly disconnected the more than 200 million users the app had amassed there.

While stopping wanting banning the app on private gadgets, plenty of different international locations, together with the United States, Canada and United Kingdom have lately enacted bans of TikTok on official, authorities gadgets.

Late final yr, President Joe Biden signed laws prohibiting TikTok on federal authorities gadgets, and greater than half of US states have enacted an analogous mandate on the state stage. A TikTok spokesperson previously blasted this ban as “little more than political theater.”

“The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments,” the spokesperson added.

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