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

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 20: The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok offic
Mario Tama/Getty Images, AP Photo/Andy Wong

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

The Wall Street Journal reports that TikTok’s Chineseparent company, ByteDance, has come under pressure from the U.S. government to sell its shares in the popular video-sharing app or face a ban in the country. This development is a significant policy shift by 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 Biden-connected consulting firm.

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

Shou Zi Chew, chief executive officer of TikTok Inc., during an interview at the TikTok office in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg/Getty)

The sale demand was made 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 staff, and 20 percent by the company’s founders. The founders’ shares do, however, have excessive voting rights, which is standard in the tech industry.

TikTok has stated in response to the CFIUS demand that a forced sale would not eliminate the alleged security risk. Instead, the company has 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 objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”

Oberwetter further argued that a transparent, American-based protection of user data and systems, including strong third-party monitoring, vetting, 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 by the Wall Street Journal.

Despite TikTok’s promises about data security, a constant stream of troubling information has emerged on 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 on a whistleblower statement about ByteDance:

Axios reports that a former employee of ByteDance — the Chinese parent company of the popular app TikTok — claims that the firm is misrepresenting the privacy of its U.S. users and may have backdoors built into the app. The whistleblower asserts that employees can easily switch between U.S. and Chinese data using a proprietary tool called Dorado and that TikTok’s access controls on U.S. user data are weaker than the company suggests. The whistleblower’s concerns were sent in a letter by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks during a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight on Capitol Hill August 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. Later today the U.S. 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 be committed to an agreement with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is reviewing the company’s procedures. The whistleblower’s claims have not been independently verified but contradict statements made in public by TikTok and ByteDance, according to Hawley. “This whistleblower’s allegations are deeply concerning. They also appear to contradict public statements made by TikTok and ByteDance executives,” Hawley stated in the letter.

Hawley cited Congressional testimony from TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas from last September, who stated that “there are strict access controls around the data that is accessed in the United States,” as well as articles from Forbes and Reuters about ByteDance employees improperly accessing TikTok’s U.S. user data. Hawley has been a vocal critic of TikTok and has called for an outright ban on the app. He referred to the whistleblower’s claims as “deeply concerning” and suggested that CFIUS look into them.


Read more at the Wall Street Journal here.

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


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