TikTok Under U.S. National Security Investigation, According To Reports
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Topline: U.S. authorities have opened a national security investigation into TikTok and its owner, Chinese tech company ByteDance, Reuters reported Friday, another sign that lawmakers continue to worry about China’s influence on the lives of U.S. citizens as the video app surges in popularity among teens.
- The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is reviewing ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly, a U.S.-based app that was eventually rebranded into TikTok under ByteDance, Reuters reported.
- The investigation comes after senators from both parties raised concerns about TikTok in a letter last week to the acting director of national intelligence.
- The senators said they are worried Chinese law could force TikTok to hand over data on U.S. users to the Chinese government and that the company may censor videos that criticize China.
- In a blog post last week, TikTok said that it stores its data on U.S. servers with backups in Singapore, and therefore that data isn’t subject to Chinese law. It also said that it doesn’t remove content based on sensitivities related to China.
- A BuzzFeed News investigation found no evidence TikTok censored or removed videos in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a movement that directly opposes the Chinese government and its ruling Communist party.
A TikTok spokesperson said that it could not comment on the ongoing regulatory process. “TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the US. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so,” the spokesperson added.
Key background: CFIUS has recently blocked acquisitions by Chinese companies, and according to Reuters, the committee has the authority to investigate TikTok because the Musical.ly deal wasn’t cleared by it beforehand.
The Chinese company that owns gay dating app Grindr said in May it would seek to sell it off after the CFIUS raised national security concerns. And last year, Chinese financial services company Ant Financial ditched plans to buy MoneyGram after the sale was blocked by CFIUS over worries about data privacy.
Tangent: Earlier this month, TikTok faced heavy criticism for failing to identify and take down ISIS propaganda videos.
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