Biden administration officials push for sale of TikTok’s US operations

Some two years after a push by the Trump administration for ByteDance Ltd. to sell off the US operations of TikTok, all that is old is new again, with claims that the Biden administration is now pushing for the exact same thing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that administration officials are pushing for the sale to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party cannot use the app for espionage and political influence. The idea of ​​a forced sale of TikTok is said to have been discussed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, with representatives from the Pentagon and the Department of Justice pushing for the sale.

Concerns raised at the committee include the ability of the Chinese government to acquire information on US users and ability to dictate what content is or isn’t shown on the platform. The same official raising concerns are also said to be arguing that the only way the concerns can be addressed is by separating the app from ByteDance.

“We’re talking about a government that, in our own intelligence community’s estimate, has a purpose to move global technology use and norms to privilege its own interests and its values, which are not consistent with our own,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told the Journal. The government, in this case, refers to China.

While sounding simple in theory, forcing a Chinese company to divest its US operations is not that easy. The Treasury Department, which chairs the committee, is said to be concerned that an order demanding that ByteDance divest TikTok in the US might be overturned in court. A US federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s plans in September 2020 and further attempts to argue the case were dropped when the Biden administration came to power.

Notably, the same arguments made by the Biden administration in 2022 were made by the Trump administration in 2020. Mainstream media previously labeled those arguments as xenophobic and the concerns about national security were dismissed. The only thing that has changed two years later is that a new president sits in the White House – it’s still the same TikTok collecting data on millions of Americans.

That Trump may have been right all along has surprisingly been admitted by some in power. “As painful as it is for me to say, if Donald Trump was right and we could’ve taken action then, that’d have been a heck of a lot easier than trying to take action in November of 2022,” Senator Mark Warner , the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said in an interview last month.

If the Biden administration forces ByteDance to divest TikTok in the US next year, there may be several potential suitors. Before the Trump era plans were shelved, companies taking an interest in buying TikTok included Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc. Before the divestment was halted, Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. had agreed to a partnership that would have seen them takeover TikTok in the US

Photo: Unsplash

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