After more than two years in office, President Biden apparently now holds the same position as his predecessor on TikTok. The administration has threatened to ban the app unless Chinese company ByteDance sells its stake, sources tell outlets including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. In 2020, then-President Trump gave TikTok's owners a deadline to sell, but the move was tied up in the courts and the Biden administration dropped his executive orders in 2021. TikTok says it is disappointed by the decision and is considering its options, NPR reports. The company had committed to spending $1.5 billion on a plan to build a firewall between American data and employees of its parent company in China.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said a forced sale "would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access," the Journal reports. "The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing," Oberwetter said. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a group of federal agencies known as CFIUS, has been looking into the app's data safeguarding plan for years and it initially appeared satisfied with the firewall plan, which would have given US company Oracle access to TikTok's algorithmic code, reports NPR.
But critics said the company would still have to comply with demands from Beijing and CFIUS eventually decided to reject the deal, with representatives from the Pentagon and the Justice Department among those calling for a sale, reports the Journal. The company is expecting to challenge the demand in the courts again. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is due to testify on security issues before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next Thursday. The White House, meanwhile, is supporting bipartisan legislation that would give the president more power to ban TikTok and other foreign-owned technology seen as a potential threat to national security. (More TikTok stories.)