US Legislators Want TikTok's Chinese Owners To Divest 

US politicians from both major parties have introduced a new bill which would ban TikTok unless owner ByteDance agrees to sell the app to a non-Chinese company. Many legislators contend that the app could allow the Chinese government to access user data and influence Americans through the wildly popular social media platform’s addictive algorithm. Nearly half the US population - around 170 million Americans - use TikTok. 

The White House has backed the bill, with President Joe Biden saying he would sign it if it passes Congress.

TikTok is not an US company, which is the reason why the US House of Representatives passed a bill on Saturday 20th April 2024 with broad support that would force the Chinese owners of the video-app to either sell to a non-Chinese owner or face a ban. 

Consequently, TikTok could be banned in the US if the social media app's Chinese owner doesn't sell its stake after the House of Representatives voted in support of the measure.

US politicians say the social media platform is a national security threat and that the Chinese government could require the owner, ByteDance, to disclose sensitive US user data or influence content on the app to serve its interests.

If the bill becomes law, the Chinese owner of the popular video-sharing app will have nine months to sell its stake, with a possible three-month extension while a sale is in progress, or face a ban. However, The quickest way for the US to ban TikTok would be to remove it from app stores, such as those operated by Apple and Google for iOS and Android devices.

In a statement, TikTok said: "It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24bn  to the US economy, annually."

Unlike Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, TikTok is not built around social connections and offers short form entertainment video. Although financial details are unavailable, it is understood that its current business model is unprofitable.

In comment, Keiron Holyome, VP UKI and Emerging Markets at BlackBerry said “Continued calls for action on TikTok ownership further highlights the risk of employees using unsecured applications and personal devices for work purposes.... Our research last August found that 75% of tech decision-makers in the UK had implemented or were considering a ban on recreational apps across BYO and/or corporate devices."

“If you’re not managing your corporate applications effectively, then it’s not only the personal data that’s potentially at risk, but corporate client sensitive data as well." Holyome added.  

Image: Mourizal Zativa

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