After the Committee on foreign investments in the U.S. (CFIUS) determined that the social media platform posed significant national security threats, Republican legislators petitioned President Biden to compel a divestment of TikTok to an American company.
ByteDance, the Chinese technology company that owns TikTok, was recently told by CFIUS, a group made up of nine cabinet-level officials that assesses the effects of foreign investments on national security, to sell the platform or risk a nationwide banning. After conducting a national security study in 2020, the agency came to the first conclusion that TikTok may “impair the national security of our country,” a finding that almost led former President Trump to use an executive order to outlaw the service.
In a letter to the White House, Tim Scott, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Patrick McHenry, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, urged enforcement of the findings as concerns about the platform continue to be raised. “We urge you to confront China and execute this order right now. Congress is prepared to assist you in achieving this, the legislators said in their letter. However, Congress will take the necessary measures to address the threats TikTok poses to national security if the president fails to act decisively.”
As a consequence of the analysis, Scott and McHenry also said that the present administration “already holds the current authorities required for dealing with the national security problems.”
“As public servants, we have a tremendous obligation to mitigate any risks in order to safeguard the welfare of future generations. This involves giving consumers the information they need to manage online hazards in the digital sphere,” the letter stated. “In order to successfully monitor and understand their child’s internet behaviors without jeopardizing their child’s future, parents must be given the necessary tools.”
Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also encouraged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to compel TikTok to separate from ByteDance in a letter that was published in March. The congressmen cited the Trump administration’s CFIUS requirement that Beijing Kunlun Firm sell control of the online dating service Grindr as well as the healthcare portal PatientsLikeMe.
At the end of the previous year, ByteDance admitted that employees had “spied on private information of journalists and other individuals with the goal to locate the sources behind articles unfavorable to the company.” The information validated a previous Forbes story that claimed ByteDance intended to monitor the whereabouts of certain people in the United States.
Speaking about the earlier this year issued divestiture order, which appears to still be in effect, Brooke Oberwetter, the spokesperson for TikTok, claimed that divestment would not “solve the problem” of protecting national security because “a change in ownership wouldn’t bring about any additional restrictions on the flow of data or access.”