TikTok reportedly facing country-wide ban in US if Chinese owners refuse to sell stakes

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The US government is reportedly threatening a country-wide ban on TikTok if its Chinese owners refuse to sell their stakes in the company. 

TikTok has been embroiled in ban threats from the US over the past few years. The first instance came in 2020 when the Donald Trump administration threatened a potential ban on the mega-popular social media app, but was ultimately blocked by the courts. 

At the time, the threats came about due to concerns over the app’s ownership ties to the Chinese Government, with fears that TikTok’s user data could be passed on to the government.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, TikTok is now facing another US ban threat from the Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) if the company’s Chinese owners do not sell off their shares.

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The same governmental body in 2020 also unanimously recommended that ByteDance, the owners of TikTok, sell off the app. 

In a statement to Reuters, spokesperson for TikTok, Brooke Oberwetter, said “if protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem” Continuing to say, “a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”

According to The Journal, 60% of ByteDance shares are owned by global investors, 20% by employees, and 20% by its founders.

TikTok’s Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is due to appear before the US Congress next week, and it is not clear if the Chinese government would approve any divestiture of the app at this time. 

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This move is in a long line of negotiations and threats from the US government, and other governmental bodies. As recently, bodies from the US, Canada, Taiwan, and Australia have all moved to ban the app from government-issued devices over security concerns. 

TikTok and CIFUS have been negotiating for the past two years on data security requirements. TikTok claims to have spent more than $1.5 billion on data security efforts, and rejects any spying allegations.