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Biden admin threatens nationwide TikTok ban unless Chinese owners sell their shares

Joe Biden, TikTok
via The White House, Anthony Quintano (CC BY 2.0)

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    The Biden administration has threatened to implement a nationwide ban on TikTok if its Chinese owners do not sell their stakes in the company.

    The divestment demand reportedly came from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency panel under the Treasury Department. The Wall Street Journal first broke the news Wednesday, which TikTok has not disputed.

    Established under the Ford administration in 1975, CFIUS is authorized to review foreign investments that may impact U.S. national security. In September 2022, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that expands the committee’s areas of review in response to “evolving national security threats.”

    Biden subsequently approved the No TikTok on Government Devices Act. Last month, the White House gave government agencies 30 days to comply with the law and additionally expressed support for a bipartisan Senate bill that would enable the president to ban foreign technologies that pose a national security risk.

    TikTok, which has been negotiating with CFIUS for over two years regarding data security, says it has spent more than $1.5 billion to satisfy requirements, Reuters reported.

    “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement, as per WSJ. “A change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”

    “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”

    TikTok said concrete details about the divestment were not provided to the company, according to CBS News

    Whether it was given a deadline is also unknown.

    China, for its part, slammed the U.S. on Thursday for “unreasonably suppressing” TikTok and spreading “false information” on data security, CNN noted.

    “The U.S. side has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens U.S. national security,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters.

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