TikTok says US threatens ban if China stake not sold
The US government says TikTok should be sold or else face a possible ban in the country.
The video-sharing app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is accused of posing a national security risk through data gathered from millions of users.
A request for a change in ownership, first reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was confirmed to BBC News by TikTok.
The company said a forced sale would not change its data flows or access.
The White House has not yet responded to a BBC News request for comment.
For years American officials have raised concerns that data from the popular app could fall into the hands of the Chinese government.
According to the WSJ, US President Joe Biden’s administration wants ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok to create a clear break from China.
The newspaper said the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), which oversees national security risks, unanimously recommended ByteDance divest from TikTok.
A spokesperson for TikTok said it did not dispute the WSJ’s reporting and confirmed it had been contacted by CFIUS.
However, the spokesperson said the reporting was overstated and it was not clear what “divestiture” meant in practice.
“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.” the spokesperson said.
“The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems”.
A ban was first threatened under then-President Donald Trump in 2020.
However, Mr Biden’s administration has also taken a dim view of the social network.
TikTok hoovers up huge amounts of data on its users, similar to Instagram and Twitter.
It can take biometric data from users and has access to location data. The fear is the information could be passed to the Chinese government.
TikTok says it has undertaken an effort to move all US-based data to the US as part of an initiative it calls Project Texas.
The company has told BBC News it still plans to move forward with that plan.
The development comes a week after new legislation was announced that would expand the president’s authority to ban TikTok nationwide was unveiled in the senate.
The Restrict Act would allow the US Commerce Department to declare foreign-linked companies national security risks.
TikTok is banned on government phones in the US, Canada and the EU.
Its chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, is set to testify before the US Congress next week in a widely anticipated showdown.