TikTok Under New Pressures From The Biden Administration

Miksalmina . March 16, 2023

Picture: iStockphoto

Techspace - TikTok is not out of the woods yet after two years of enduring the massive suspicion directed towards it during the Trump administration, who were vocal in their efforts to ban TikTok in the US' market. Now, the company has been the recipient of new yet familiar suspicion by the Biden administration.

Two years ago in 2020, TikTok came close to being banned in the US' market, but eventually escaped this predicament along with another Chinese-based application, WeChat. Other Chinese apps such as Alipay, CamScanner, and Tencent QQ weren't so lucky.

The US government's efforts to ban these apps were done for the purpose of safeguarding their national security. It believed that said Chinese apps contributed to the advancement of the Chinese national economic and security agenda. It seems that the US government hasn't abandoned their efforts to restrict Chinese apps such as TikTok even now after two years.

The US government's views of TikTok

Beginning in early February this year, the US Congress summoned the CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, to appear before it. He was summoned to explain TikTok's privacy and data security policies, and also the company's connection to the Chinese government and ruling party.

Both the Democrat and the Republican parties in the US Congress seem to have shared the same opinion that TikTok does pose a threat to the US' national and economic security. The summoning of the TikTok CEO can be argued to have been the result of the Republican party saying that the Democrats haven't taken a tough enough stance to address the supposed threat TikTok poses.

Read more: TikTok CEO Invited to Testify Before U.S Congress

At the end of last year, the US government passed a ban on the usage of TikTok on government websites. Responding to this, a TikTok representative said that the ban will do nothing to advance the US' national security interests, and that it's just a political gesture.

On the other hand, the US' government asserted their attitude towards TikTok as justified. This is due to the alleged fact that companies having offices in China can be subjected by Chinese laws to yield their data to the government when requested to do so.

New pressures towards TikTok by the Biden administration

Just yesterday, it was reported that TikTok has received new demands from the Committee on Foreign Investment for it to sell its owners' shares. In response to these demands, a TikTok spokesperson has said that "divestment" or the selling off of subsidiary business interests or investments, will not address the US government's concerns of national security.

The same spokesperson said that an ownership change wouldn't impose new restrictions on data flows or even access. They added that the best way to address the concerns of the US government is to impose transparent, US-based protection of the US users' data and systems.

Furthermore, they also added that TikTok is already implementing efforts to achieve this by way of robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification. Demands for divestment of the owners' shares weren't exactly new. Two years ago in 2020, the same Committee on Foreign Investment spearheaded the move that TikTok owners' shares  should be sold to US-based companies.

The move resulted in ByteDance's failure to finalize a deal with Oracle Corp. and Walmart to take care of TikTok's assets. The US government seemed to have found a second wind in the efforts to restrict TikTok. Now, it has threatened to ban the application altogether.

Will this threat finally manifest after ongoing fears that still seemed to loom over the US' government, even after two years have passed?

Read more: TikTok CEO Attempt to Convince EU About App’s Safety and Privacy

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