If TikTok’s Chinese owners do not sell their shares in the social media platform, the Biden administration has threatened to outlaw it in the US.
The decision was made in response to concerns that the company’s American user data would be given to China’s authorities. It also happens to coincide with a global backlash against TikTok because to worries about the possibility of Chinese espionage, with nations including the UK, Canada, and Australia recently taking action to ban the app from government phones.
But, this is the first time during Biden’s administration that a potential nationwide ban on TikTok has been suggested. The US has previously prohibited the app on federal government devices.
Any US ban would face significant legal hurdles. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, had tried to ban TikTok in 2020 but was blocked by the courts.
A TikTok spokesperson, Brooke Oberwetter, told Reuters that the company had recently heard from the US Treasury-led committee on foreign investment in the United States (CFIUS), which demanded that the Chinese owners of the app sell their shares, and said otherwise they would face a possible US ban of the video app.
The move comes as TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, is due to appear before the US Congress next week.
TikTok and CFIUS have been negotiating for more than two years on data security requirements. TikTok said it has spent more than $1.5bn on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.
TikTok said on Wednesday, March 15, that “the best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification”.
Meanwhile, China has accused the US of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok.