Ultimatum to TikTok in the US: either sale or ban

The United States has given TikTok an ultimatum, pushing for the Chinese owners of the social network, ByteDance, to get rid of the service or ban its use in the country. Is there a real risk to national security as the US government says? Is it a theft of intellectual property as the Chinese government said in the middle of a trade war?

The case of TikTok it was the summer soap opera in 2020. The success, as resounding as it was rapid, of the new phenomenon of social networks did not go unnoticed by the US administration, then led by Donald Trump. A relatively recent mobile app (end of 2016) that allows users to create short music videos and share them to the world, which has been hugely successful in a very short time, surpassing the number of users like other big ones like Instagram.

But Trump, as with Huawei, marked it as “threat to national security” for espionage of data and delivery of the same to the Chinese government and demanded “an American TikTok”. He even chose the company that would buy it, which was none other than Microsoft. Subsequently, under the Biden administration, it was vetoed by the federal and other state governments in official devices. An extreme that has also been adopted by the European Commission and with similar arguments: “protect information and cyber attacks against the Commission’s corporate environment”.

Ultimatum to TikTok

The Wall Street Journal assures that the US administration, through a lawsuit from the Foreign Investment Committee, has demanded the sale of the company as a last notice and aims directly to carry out a divestment. This would mean that ByteDance, based in Beijing, would have to sell TikTok to someone outside of China or it risks losing its more than 100 million users in the US and we assume in other close ones such as Canada and perhaps even the European Union.

A TikTok spokesperson has commented that forcing the sale would not alleviate security risks perceived by the Biden administration. “If the goal is to protect national security, divestment does not solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose new restrictions on data flows or access”assures.

Instead, TikTok offers an alternative by compromising $1.5 billion to implement a system that ByteDance says would protect US customers’ personal information and platform content from Chinese government influence and data collection. “The best way to address concerns is with the transparent, US standards-based protection with robust third-party monitoring, investigation, and third-party verification, which we are already implementing”they say.

TikTok has also migrated US user data to Oracle’s servers in the country. ByteDance had hoped that the transfer would satisfy Washington’s security concerns, but it appears that this has not been the case. In fact, the TikTok CEO will be questioned by a congressional committee next week. We will see how the TikTok soap opera ends, another battle in the commercial war between the two giants.

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