The US government has recommended the sale of the TikTok application by its owner, the Chinese group ByteDance, as pressure mounts in the United States against the popular platform. According to the Wall Street Journal and other American dailies, the White House has issued an ultimatum: if TikTok stays under ByteDance, it will be banned in the United States. The app is seen as a national security threat by many Western lawmakers because of its ownership by a Chinese company.
In the United States, the February downing of a supposed Chinese spy balloon sparked renewed efforts in Congress to ban the entertaining short video service, accused of giving Beijing access to user data around the world. which he has always denied. The White House request comes from CFIUS, a government agency responsible for assessing the risks of any foreign investment to US national security. The government and Treasury declined to comment.
"If the objective is to protect national security, a divestiture does not solve the problem: [the fact that the application] changes ownership will not mean the imposition of new restrictions on the flow of data or access to these, "responded a spokeswoman for TikTok, contacted by AFP. "The best way to address national security concerns is to use the country's US user data protection systems, with strong controls and third-party verifications, which we are already putting in place. “, she added.
TikTok, which goes to great lengths to reassure politicians and the public of its integrity, was counting on CFIUS to find a compromise. “The quickest and most effective way to address these concerns […] is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we have been working on with them for over two years,” a TikTok spokesperson said in late February. . He was reacting to the consideration of a bill carried by Republicans, which would give the authority to President Joe Biden to completely ban TikTok.
The White House has already banned officials of federal institutions from having the app on their smartphones, pursuant to a law ratified in early January. The European Commission and the Canadian government recently made similar decisions for their civil servants' mobile phones. The company stores US user data on servers located in the country. She admitted that employees based in China had access to it, but under a strict and limited framework, and not the Chinese government.
In the summer of 2020, former President Donald Trump had signed several executive orders to try to ban the platform or have it bought by an American company. "TikTok is reliving the saga of 2019-2020," said Dan Ives of Wedbush. "As tensions escalate between the United States and China, the app finds itself trapped in the middle of the ring," the analyst added in a note.
The already considerable popularity of the platform has exploded in favor of the pandemic, beyond its original audience, teenagers. The app has over 100 million users in the United States. It has surpassed YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in "time spent" by American adults on each platform in recent years, and is now hot on Netflix, according to Insider Intelligence. Powerful US civil rights group ACLU has opposed the anti-TikTok bills in the name of free speech.