Investigations into ByteDance, the Chinese flagship company of the popular video app TikTok, have been initiated by the FBI and the Department of Justice. This is a result of allegations of espionage against journalists, some of whom are based in the United States.
FBI and DOJ Launch Probe into TikTok
Following the company’s admission that it fired four employees after they used the app to track the activities of two journalists in the United States, the FBI and the Department of Justice are reportedly launching a probe into ByteDance.
Breaking News: The Justice Department is investigating the owner of TikTok for possible spying on U.S. citizens, according to people familiar with the matter. The inquiry appears to be tied to an admission by the app’s owner, ByteDance. https://t.co/pVOMnFu5kU
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 17, 2023
This news comes at a time when ByteDance is under increased scrutiny about selling its stake in TikTok. If ByteDance does not sell its shares, the app could be prohibited in the United States.
In a press release, TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan stated, “If the objective is to protect national security, divestment is not an option. No new restrictions on data flow or accessibility would be imposed by a change in ownership.”
“The most effective way to address national security concerns is to adopt transparent safeguards for US-based user data and systems, complemented by extensive third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are currently implementing.”
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, claimed the United States was unfairly oppressing TikTok and spreading false data security information.
Wenbin continued by stating, “To date, the United States has provided no evidence demonstrating that TikTok poses a threat to national security.”
US officials are concerned that the Chinese government might employ its national security legislation to force TikTok or its Chinese parent firm, ByteDance, to reveal the personal details of TikTok’s US users.
This could subsequently be exploited for Chinese intelligence operations or influence efforts.
US Legislators Criticized Biden’s Ties With Chinese Company
Unresolved negotiations with TikTok have led some US legislators to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the situation and advocate for the app’s prohibition through legislation.
Numerous individuals have accused the Biden administration of not taking the alleged security threat posed by the Chinese company seriously enough, particularly after the Chinese company hired a consulting firm with ties to Biden.
TikTok, on the other hand, has added voluntary technological and government controls, which the business claims will ensure that only US-based staff have access to US customer data.
One of the steps, known as Project Texas, includes keeping personal information with the American cloud company Oracle. This month, TikTok launched Project Clover, a similar endeavor in Europe.
The Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok from the United States unless the app’s Chinese owners agree to spin off their share of the social media platform, TikTok acknowledged https://t.co/XjrHI2yzjb
— CNN (@CNN) March 16, 2023
The US critics of TikTok remain unconvinced, despite these efforts. When TikTok CEO Shou Chew testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee the following week, tensions are anticipated to escalate.
TikTok has gained immense popularity among the youth in the United States and around the world; the possibility of a ban has sparked alarm among both its creators and users.