The Biden administration reportedly warned Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok that the current owner needs to sell the company or it could face a nationwide ban.
Axios reported late Wednesday that the app, which is widely considered to pose a national security risk with its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, faces a blackout in the U.S. Parent company ByteDance has the option, however, to sell its stake in TikTok.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) told ByteDance that it faces a clear choice.
The ultimatum apparently was not so clear to the parent company, which has well-documented ties to the Chinese government of CCP Chairman Xi Jinping.
An anonymous source within the company apparently told Axios that there is confusion on exactly what the CFIUS wants ByteDance to do. The conglomerate’s shares are owned by several global investment firms.
The United Kingdom has banned TikTok from official government devices. It comes a day after TikTok said the US government had requested the company’s Chinese owners sell their shares or else risk a ban. https://t.co/b8TJ1dw7pD
— CNN (@CNN) March 16, 2023
The source said this type of ownership structure renders it difficult to sell out on a short notice. However, TikTok has been well aware for months that Washington was at least considering such a move to shore up national security.
In fact, the company spearheaded “Operation Texas,” a push to allegedly move backend functions of its U.S. enterprise away from its Chinese headquarters.
Many, including prominent government officials, remain wholly unconvinced that the social media app is distanced far enough away from Beijing to nullify the security threat.
TikTok is a wildly popular short-video-sharing platform with over 100 million users in the U.S. alone. However, it is well known to harvest vast amounts of user data, and by law is required to share intelligence with the CCP if requested.
The current ownership denies that a change at the top will create a different security protocol. In a statement, the company said that “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.”
Perhaps, but if that’s the case, a nationwide ban in the U.S. is all but inevitable. Carried out, this action would immediately affect tens of millions of users and escalate already high tensions between Washington and Beijing.