WSJ: White House Pushes TikTok’s Chinese Owners to Sell Platform

ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, has recently come under pressure from the Biden administration to sell its massive video platform or face a ban in the United States, according to Wall Street Journal.

the Wall Street Journal reports TikTok subsidiary ByteDance has come under pressure from the US government to sell its shares in the popular video-sharing app or face a ban in the country. This development is an important policy shift in the Biden administration and has sparked a new round of debate. Many have accused the Biden administration of not taking the alleged security threat posed by the China-based company seriously enough, especially after the Chinese company hired a consulting firm linked to Biden.

TikTok influencers Florin Vitan (L) and Alessia Lanza perform a video for the TikTok social network (MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images)

Xu Ziqiu, CEO of TikTok Inc. , during an interview at TikTok’s office in New York, US, on Thursday, February 17, 2022. (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg/Getty)

The sale request was submitted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a multi-agency federal task force that monitors national security risks associated with international investments. According to TikTok, which was founded in Beijing in 2012, 60 percent of ByteDance’s shares are owned by foreign investors, 20 percent by its employees, and 20 percent by the company’s founders. However, the founders’ shares have excessive voting rights, which is standard in the tech industry.

TikTok stated in response to the CFIUS request that the forced sale would not eliminate the alleged security risks. Instead, the company promised to invest $1.5 billion in a program aimed at protecting American user data and content from being accessed or influenced by the Chinese government. In a statement, TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said: “If protecting national security is the goal, divestment does not solve the problem: A change in ownership will not impose any new restrictions on data flow or access.”

Oberwetter further argued that US transparent protection of user data and systems, including robust third-party monitoring, auditing, and verification, is the best way to address national security concerns. The Treasury Department, which oversees CFIUS, declined to comment on the situation when contacted Wall Street Journal.

Despite TikTok’s promises about data security, a steady stream of troubling information has emerged about how the Chinese company influences Americans and spies on enemies of the Chinese state, along with millions of American teens.

Earlier this month, Breitbart News reported a whistleblower statement about ByteDance:

Axios reports that a former employee of ByteDance — the Chinese parent company of the popular TikTok app — claims that the company misrepresents the privacy of its US users and may have backdoors built into the app. The whistleblower maintains that employees can easily switch between US and Chinese data using a proprietary tool called Dorado and that TikTok’s access controls for US user data are weaker than the company suggests. The whistleblower’s concerns were conveyed in a letter from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mis.) to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mis.) speaks during a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee meeting on Emerging Threats and Oversight Spending on Capitol Hill on August 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. Later in the day, the US Senate will hold a series of votes on Finland and Sweden joining NATO. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

TikTok has consistently refuted claims that it compromises the security of user data from the United States, claiming to keep it safe and to adhere to an agreement with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews the company’s actions. The whistleblower’s claims have not been independently verified but contradict public statements by TikTok and ByteDance, according to Holly. “The allegations of this whistleblower are deeply troubling. It also appears to contradict public statements made by TikTok and ByteDance executives,” Hawley stated in the letter.

Hawley cited congressional testimony from TikTok’s COO Vanessa Pappas last September, which stated that “there are strict access controls around data being accessed in the US,” as well as articles from Forbes and Reuters about ByteDance employees improperly accessing To US TikTok User Data. Hawley has been an outspoken critic of TikTok and has called for an outright ban on the app. He referred to the whistleblower’s allegations as “extremely troubling” and suggested that CFIUS look into them.

Read more at Wall Street Journal here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and internet censorship. Follow him on Twitter @employee

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