US threatens TikTok with nationwide ban if not sold

Biden’s administration threatens a full US ban of TikTok if the app’s Chinese owner company did not spin off their share of the platform, Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The forking paths situation comes after a long run of negotiations between federal officials and the popular social media platform, as it was contacted by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the U.S.

The CFIUS, which include the Departments of Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and Commerce, has been discussing a deal with TikTok to allow the app to operate in the U.S. market, while it faces accusations of security threats.

U.S. officials have been concerned about the social media platform or its parent company, ByteDance, to be pressured by Chinese authorities to allow it access to personal information of U.S. users, to benefit the Chinese intelligence activities.

“It could be that the divestiture demand is the end of the discussion, but it’s also equally likely that the divestiture is a component of what CFIUS wants in terms of safeguarding national security,” former CFIUS official, Harry Broadman said.

“The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing,” said TikTok spokesperson, Maureen Shanahan in a statement.

A change in ownership does not solve the problem nor impose any new restrictions on data flows or access, added Shanahan.

“The U.S. side has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens U.S. national security,” said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Wang Wenbin on Thursday.

In efforts to assure policymakers with voluntary technical and bureaucratic safeguards, to make sure US user data can only be accessed by U.S. employees.

The initiative, titled Project Texas, involves storing personal data with U.S. cloud giant, Oracle, with another similar European initiative titled Project Clover launched this month.

Later last year, Congress had passed legislation, signed by President Joe Biden, blocking TikTok from U.S. government devices, then European Union and Canada followed in its footsteps.

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