WASHINGTON — The Biden administration wants the Chinese owner of TikTok to sell the app or face a possible ban, TikTok said Wednesday, as the White House toughens its stance on addressing national security concerns about the popular video service.
A new request to sell the app was made to TikTok in recent weeks, two people familiar with the matter said. TikTok is owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance.
The move is a significant shift in the Biden administration’s stance toward TikTok, which has come under scrutiny over fears Beijing could seek Americans’ data from the app. The White House is trying to negotiate a deal with TikTok that would see it apply new safeguards to its data and eliminate ByteDance’s requirement to sell its stake in the app.
But the demand for sales — coupled with White House support for legislation that would allow TikTok to be banned in the U.S. — complicates the administration’s approach. Former President Donald J. It backs up Trump’s position.
TikTok said it was weighing its options and was disappointed by the decision. The company said its security plan, which includes storing Americans’ data in the U.S., provides better protection for users.
“If the goal is to protect national security, divestment does not solve the problem: a change in ownership does not impose new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan said in a statement.
TikTok’s chief executive, Sho Chi Siew, is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. He is expected to face questions about the app’s ties to China and its provision of harmful content to young people.
A White House spokesman declined to comment, as did a Treasury Department spokeswoman who led negotiations with TikTok. The Justice Department also declined to comment. Demand for sales As reported earlier Via The Wall Street Journal.
TikTok, which has 100 million US users, is at the center of a battle between the Biden administration and the Chinese government over technological and economic leadership and national security. President Biden has waged a broad campaign against China with massive financing plans to boost domestic production of semiconductors, electric vehicles and lithium batteries. The administration has banned Chinese telecommunications equipment and banned US exports of chip-making equipment to China.
The fight over TikTok began in 2020, when Mr Trump said he would ban the app unless ByteDance sold its shares to a US company, recommended by a panel of federal agencies known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. .
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The Trump administration eventually reached a Byte Dance deal to sell part of TikTok to Oracle, an American cloud computing company, and Walmart. But the potential transaction never materialized.
CFIUS staff and TikTok continued to negotiate an agreement that would allow the app to operate in the United States. TikTok submitted a major draft of a deal in August — which TikTok called Project Texas. Under the plan, the company said it would store US users’ data on server computers run by Oracle inside the US.
TikTok officials have not heard back from CFIUS officials since they submitted their proposal, the company said.
In that vacuum, concerns about usability have intensified. States, schools and Congress have banned TikTok. Last year, a company investigation found that ByteDance’s China-based employees accessed data on US TikTok users, including reporters.
Brendan Carr, a Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, said the administration’s new request is a “good sign” that the White House is taking a tougher line.
“There is a bipartisan consensus that US national security cannot be compromised when it comes to TikTok, so I hope the CFIUS review can now be concluded quickly in a way that protects US interests,” Mr. Carr said.
The White House last week backed a bipartisan Senate bill that would give it more authority to deal with TikTok, including banning the app. If passed, it would give management more leverage in its negotiations with the utility and allow it to force a sale.
Any attempt to ban the app or force its sale could face a legal challenge. Mr. Federal courts ultimately ruled against Trump’s effort. The American Civil Liberties Union recently condemned legislation to ban the use, saying it raises concerns under the First Amendment.