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US May Ban TikTok Without ByteDance Stake Sale

    US May Ban TikTok Without ByteDance Stake Sale
    Last updated Mar 16, 2023
    Image credit: reuters

    Facts

    • The Biden admin. has demanded ByteDance divest its stake in the video app TikTok or face a possible US ban. The move is the most dramatic in a series of recent steps taken by American officials and legislators concerned that user data could potentially be passed on to the PRC.[1]
    • This policy change represents a major shift for the Biden administration, which has come under fire from some Republicans who allege that the admin. hasn't taken a tough enough stance on the perceived security threat posed by the app.[2]
    • According to TikTok executives, ByteDance has 60% of its shares owned by global investors, 20% owned by its employees, and another 20% owned by its owners. However, the owners' shares carry outsized voting rights.[3]
    • On Wednesday, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter stated, “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”[4]
    • In response to growing bipartisan concerns, TikTok has committed to a wide-reaching $1.5B plan called "Project Texas" that would enact a stronger firewall between TikTok and employees of its Beijing parent company.[5]
    • TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will travel to Washington, DC, next week to testify before Congress and address concerns about the app's links to the Chinese Communist Party. On March 23, he's expected to appear before a House Energy and Commerce Committee.[6]

    Spin

    Anti-China narrative

    TikTok developer ByteDance has come under increased scrutiny from governments and regulators over fears that Beijing could gain access to the company's database — something that could be used to potentially harvest users' data to spy on Western nations to advance China's interests. This dramatic move by the Biden administration demanding divestment or a nationwide ban on TikTok is based on well-founded security concerns.

    Pro-China narrative

    The US government has not presented any meaningful evidence that the TikTok app poses a threat to national security. Instead, it has attempted to spread misinformation and unreasonably suppress legitimate private firms. The US crackdown on TikTok is nothing less than xenophobic bullying. They should stop the harassment and start providing a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory business environment for foreign companies.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 25% chance that the US will ban Tiktok before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split

    CRITICAL

    PRO

    More neutral establishment stance articles