Run by ByteDance, a company suspected of close ties to the Communist regime in Beijing, the TikTok network is again at risk of being banned in the US unless the current owner agrees to sell the business to a company outside China.
According to as-yet-unconfirmed official reports, the Biden administration is pushing for the removal of TikTok from the control of its current owner, ByteDance. Following a possible rejection of the imposed condition, US authorities will move forward with the measure to ban TikTok nationwide. If taken, the decision to ban TikTok could soon be followed by governments in other countries that have so far been reluctant to resort to extreme measures.
The ultimatum given behind closed doors by US officials represents an escalation of the limited bans and draft legislation discussed but left pending. In late February, the Biden administration said federal agencies would have 30 days to remove TikTok from government devices , and similar restrictions have spread to dozens of US states.
The current speculation is said to stem from a bill introduced earlier this month that would give the Commerce Secretary the ability to ban foreign companies from operating in the US if there are threats to national security – the key argument for why some US officials are calling for a ban on TikTok.
In its own defense, ByteDance argues that user data is not stored in China, with TikTok’s owner proposing an agreement with the US government aimed at separating US operations. In such an arrangement, TikTok accounts assigned to US users would be kept on locally hosted servers. However, it is unclear how content distributed on TikTok from accounts registered in other regions of the world would be handled.
The Wall Street Journal reported in December that negotiations between TikTok and Washington had stalled, and the future of the deal seemed uncertain. Meanwhile, ByteDance CEO Shou Zi Chew is expected to appear before the US Congress next week, and his statements could decisively influence the measures being prepared.