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TikTok Under Pressure as Biden Administration Scrutinizes Chinese Ownership

The social media company could face a push to sell its US operations to eliminate influence from the Chinese government.

Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise 5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming
Eli Blumenthal
2 min read
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The Chinese owners of TikTok may be facing pressure to divest. The security concerns of the popular social media platform have led some Biden administration officials to push for a sale of the company's US operations "to ensure Beijing can't harness the app for espionage and political influence," according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal citing unnamed sources. 

The idea of a forced sale was raised in discussions by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, with representatives from the Pentagon and Department of Justice pushing for the sale. Among the concerns is the idea that the Chinese government could use TikTok, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, to acquire information on US users as well as dictate what content is or isn't shown on the platform "in a bid to influence US popular opinion." 

TikTok says that it has been working with the CFIUS for over two years to address "all reasonable national security concerns" about the company and that it has made substantial progress addressing concerns about corporate governance, content recommendation and moderation, and data security and access.

"We believe those concerns can be fully resolved," TikTok said in a statement, adding that in working with the CFIUS it has implemented measures "well beyond what any peer company is doing today."

National security concerns over TikTok have picked up in recent weeks. A report earlier this month suggested that negotiations between the Biden administration and the app over its US operations would be put on hold because of national security concerns. The app has been banned from being used on government-issued devices or networks in some states including Virginia and Georgia, with some universities in Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama similarly preventing access on campus computers and networks. 

Concerns over TikTok's ownership and national security are not new. The Trump administration pushed unsuccessfully for banning the social media platform in the US.