The Biden administration has demanded the Chinese owners of TikTok sell their stakes in the social media app or risk a possible ban in the U.S., the company told The Hill on Wednesday.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the U.S. Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) made the push. TikTok confirmed it had heard from CFIUS and said it did not dispute the reporting.
The CFIUS demand comes amid security concerns about the video-sharing app, which is owned by China-based parent company ByteDance — specifically, that the Chinese government could gain access to American user data.
Congress has been increasingly scrutinizing TikTok and talking about a potential ban — and Republicans have knocked the Biden administration for not taking action on the perceived threat.
TikTok on Wednesday didn’t divulge further details about the new demand from CFIUS, but countered that a sale wouldn’t solve the perceived security problems.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan told The Hill in a statement.
“The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing,” the spokesperson said.
TikTok and CFIUS have been negotiating for more than two years on a way to let the app keep operating in the U.S. The social media platform boasts more than 100 million U.S. users, according to Reuters.
TikTok said that for now it’s still going ahead with “Project Texas,” a plan to route user traffic through the Texas-based company Oracle’s cloud servers in an effort to address some security concerns.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to appear later this month before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as lawmakers examine the app’s consumer data privacy and security practices.
The Hill has reached out to the White House and the Treasury Department for comment.
— Updated 10:57 p.m.