According to a recent report, the U.S. government has begun a national security review of TikTok and of its parent company Beijing ByteDance Technology’s acquisition of the U.S. social media app Musical.ly.
Reuters reports that the United States government has launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology’s acquisition of the U.S.-based social media app Musical.ly. The acquisition of Musical.ly by ByteDance was completed two years ago for $1 billion, but recently, U.S. lawmakers have begun calling for a probe into TikTok over concerns that the Chinese company was censoring politically sensitive content.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently called on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review the acquisition of social media app Musical.ly by TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. over claims that TikTok is used by the Chinese government to censor certain political content.
Rubio stated in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that Chinese-owned apps “are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party.” The Treasury secretary heads the CFIUS, which reviews mergers such as that of Musical.ly and TikTok to ensure that they do not damage national security.
Rubio stated that there was evidence that TikTok in the United States was censoring political content that was “not in line” with the Chinese government. Rubio stated that China “is using these apps to advance their foreign policy and globally suppress freedom of speech, expression, and other freedoms that we as Americans so deeply cherish.” In one example, TikTok has blacklisted popular Christian app pray.com from advertising on its app.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to investigate the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to determine if it poses “national security risks.”
TikTok has grown rapidly in the United States with about 60 percent of the apps 26.5 monthly active users coming from the U.S. where the app is primarily used by individuals aged between 16 and 24. It now appears that CFIUS has heard the Senators’ concerns and has launched an investigation into the Musical.ly acquisition, according to sources.
A TikTok spokesperson commented on the situation stating: “While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so.”
ByteDance is one of China’s fastest-growing startups, currently owning the country’s leading news aggregator Jinri Toutiao as well as TIkTok. ByteDance is backed by firms such as Japanese technology giant SoftBank, venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and private-equity firms such as KKR, General Atlantic, and Hillhouse Capital Group. The firm posted a revenue for the first half of 2019 of over $7 billion and was valued at $78 billion last year.