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TikTok claims US is threatening a ban if it doesn't divest from ByteDance

This isn't the first time the app has been threaten with a ban.

Published onMarch 16, 2023

TikTok featured image
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
  • TikTok claims the US government is threatening a ban if it doesn’t divest itself from its China-based owners.
  • US officials believe the app presents a national security risk, which TikTok denies.
  • The app has already been banned on government devices in 30 states.

The fight over TikTok‘s presence in the US continues to rage on. In the latest report, TikTok’s CEO is claiming that the US government is threatening a national ban on the app if it doesn’t divest from ByteDance.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told Reuters on Wednesday, “The Biden administration has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes in the popular video app or face a possible U.S. ban.” This would mark the first time under the Biden administration that such a demand has been made. It would also be the most dramatic step taken by US officials and legislators to date.

However, it’s not the first time threats of a national ban have taken place. Former President Donald Trump had previously tried to enforce a ban in 2020. But the move was later blocked by US courts.

The motivation for implementing a ban stems from the fear that US user data could be passed on to China’s government. This fear is not unique to the US either as other countries — like the UK — have also taken measures to ban the app from government devices.

In response to the US government’s demands, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said “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.” China’s foreign ministry also chimed in claiming that the US has yet to provide evidence that TikTok poses a threat to national security.

TikTok has made promises to protect US user data from China by relying on domestic Oracle servers and implementing other data management protocols. It has also been working for the last two years to assuage data privacy concerns after the first ban attempt, spending over a billion on an initiative called Project Texas.

However, a former TikTok employee of the company’s trust and safety team told The Washington Post that there are significant flaws with Project Texas. The employee went on to say that it’s still theoretically possible for China to access US user data. But there are reports that the employee left TikTok months before the company finalized its Project Texas plan.

According to Reuters, Chew is expected to speak with US Congress next week.