TikTok says US could ban app if Chinese owners do not sell

Beijing accuses Washington of 'unreasonably suppressing' the social media app

TikTok faces a possible ban in the US if the social media company does not separate from its Chinese owners. AFP
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TikTok said it faces a possible nationwide ban in the US if its Chinese owners do not sell their stakes in the company.

Washington is one of numerous western governments to have taken a more stringent approach to the social media app over national security fears that the Chinese government could obtain users' data. The European Union, UK and others have all banned the app from government devices.

The White House gave TikTok an ultimatum, telling the company that it would be banned from the US if it remains a part of the Chinese-owned Bytedance, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A TikTok representative told AFP that Bytedance divesting its shares from the company would not allay national security concerns.

“If protecting national security is the objective, calls for a ban or divestment are unnecessary, as neither option solves the broader industry issues of data access and transfer,” the representative said.

“We remain confident that the best path forward to addressing concerns about national security is transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification.”

China accused the US of “unreasonably suppressing” TikTok.

“The US has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens US national security,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a briefing.

Addressing a US Senate committee earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray said TikTok “screams” of a national security threat.

“This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government,” he told legislators on Capitol Hill.

And the White House last week endorsed a bill that would grant the Biden administration power to ban TikTok and other foreign technologies deemed a threat to national security.

“This legislation would empower the United States government to prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services operating in the United States in a way that poses risks to Americans’ sensitive data and our national security,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

The app, which has 138 million downloads in the US, has already been banned on federal government devices.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before a US House committee next week.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 17, 2023, 6:42 AM