If ByteDance wants TikTok to continue operating in the US, it's easy: you just have to sell it

Some of you may remember the soap opera we experienced with TikTok in the summer of 2020. Then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban the application in the United States as a result of the suspicion of what was used for to spy to the users. To solve this, some companies such as Microsoft or Oracle applied as potential buyers of this social network. When Biden became the new president of the United States, the matter ended up returning to normal… until now.

“TikTok spies on us”. That is once again the argument of the United States Government, which wants to protect national security. TikTok belongs to the Chinese company ByteDance, and suspicions of possible espionage and that the data ends up reaching the Chinese government have been in the limelight for years.

ByteDance must sell (part of) TikTok. For the Biden government there is only one solution: for ByteDance to sell its stake in the version of TikTok that works in the United States. As indicated in Axiosthe app has more than 100 million users in the North American country, and banning it would have a huge impact on the daily routine of millions of users and would increase the tense commercial relations between the United States and China.

Harder to do than to say. Much of ByteDance’s shares are owned by large investment firms, making it difficult for ByteDance’s owners to divest themselves of their stake. The Chinese company is trying to alleviate the situation with initiatives such as the so-called Project Texas, a set of measures that TikTok is taking together with Oracle “to separate the functions and backend code of its US operations from its Chinese arm.” This same initiative has its European version, called Project Clover.

RESTRICT Act. This bill proposal, presented by a group of twelve Democratic and Republican senators in the United States, seeks that the US government can prohibit the use of the TikTok app in this country. With it, new mechanisms would be granted to the government to “mitigate” the risks to national security posed by the activity of “highly dangerous” technology businesses that operate in the US.

A potential ban with huge impact. Banning TikTok in the United States would set a worrying precedent for governments around the world, which might be encouraged to ban “unwelcome” apps. Not only would it prevent users from enjoying all that content and cut the wings of creators who are spending time on it, it would also clearly benefit rivals controlled by US companies (YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Instagram), potentially allowing them to increase their ad revenue, which advertisers would no longer dedicate to TikTok. Government-controlled technology censorship could become a huge problem under the familiar excuse of national security.

Europe is also suspicious. Those suspicions are shared by other countries and also by the European Union, which has banned its officials from having TikTok on their work or personal devices. The United Kingdom just done exactly the same and follows the trail of other countries. The threat that this application ends up collecting sensitive data is important, and the EU has wanted to cover its back here, although there are no movements yet to indicate that it intends to ban the application in the community territory.

Image: Solen Feyissa

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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