TikTok’s Chinese Owner Dismisses Sales Rumor Amid Potential US Ban

President Biden signed a bill requiring the sale of TikTok by Jan. 19, 2025.

TikTok’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance denied media reports of selling the platform as the company faces a mandate to either divest the firm or be banned from the United States.

“Foreign media reports that ByteDance is exploring the sale of TikTok are untrue,” the company said in an April 25 statement on news aggregation app Toutiao, according to CNN. “ByteDance doesn’t have any plan to sell TikTok.”

The statement was in response to an article published by media outlet The Information on April 25, stating that ByteDance was exploring the possibility of selling a majority stake in TikTok’s business in the United States.

The article claimed that the sale would not include the video recommendation algorithm. ByteDance reportedly preferred to sell TikTok to businesses outside the tech industry, it said.

ByteDance’s response comes as President Joe Biden recently signed a bill requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok, and if it fails to do so, the app would be banned from U.S. app stores and web-hosting services. Earlier, the Senate passed the bill in a 79–18 vote.

The deadline for the sale is Jan. 19, 2025, just before the next U.S. president is sworn in. The president can extend the deadline by a maximum of three months to facilitate the deal’s completion.

Former President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ban TikTok in the United States in 2020. However, after TikTok filed a lawsuit, courts sided with the company, stating that the ban violated due process and the right to free expression.

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, TikTok called the recent bill “unconstitutional” and said it intends to challenge it in the courts. “We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail,” it said. “This ban would devastate seven million businesses and silence 170 million Americans.”

A key concern that drove the attempt to prohibit TikTok in the United States was that the app is linked with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This creates a risk that the private data of individual American citizens may end up in the hands of the regime, which can then be used for nefarious purposes and harm national security, according to experts.

TikTok insists it has invested billions of dollars to “keep U.S. data safe and our platform free from outside influence and manipulation.”

However, the CCP’s counterespionage law requires that Chinese companies, including ByteDance, must hand over data on American users to Beijing when the authorities make such a request.

TikTok has proposed to store data of Americans at Texas-based Oracle in a bid to allay security concerns.

However, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chair of the Select Intelligence Committee, notes that even with this initiative, ByteDance would “still allow TikTok’s algorithm, source code, and development activities to remain in China” and “subject to the Chinese government’s exploitation.”While ByteDance claims it keeps data on Americans safe and free from outside influence, former employees say otherwise.

In a recent interview with Fortune, Evan Turner, who worked as a senior data scientist at TikTok from April to September 2022, said he was initially assigned to a ByteDance executive in Beijing.

After the firm announced its initiative to store American user data in the United States, he was reassigned to a U.S.-based manager in Seattle. However, this reassignment was only on paper. He continued working with the Beijing executive.

His job entailed emailing spreadsheets containing data of hundreds of thousands of American users to ByteDance’s employees in Beijing. The information included names, IP addresses, email IDs, and geographic details.

“I literally worked on a project that gave U.S. data to China,” he said. “They were completely complicit in that. There were Americans that were working in upper management that were completely complicit in this.”

Last year, U.S. military experts warned about the potential cybersecurity risks TikTok posed to the United States during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency, and chief of the Central Security Service, pointed out that “one-third of the adult population receives their news from this app, one-sixth of our children are saying they’re constantly on this app.”

“If you consider that there [are] 150 million people every single day that are obviously touching this app, this provides a foreign nation a platform for information operations, a platform for surveillance, and a concern we have with regards to who controls that data.”

John F. Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy and principal cyber adviser to the secretary of defense, highlighted the issue of global Chinese cyber intrusions, which he said were “the most prolific in the world.”

“In [a] crisis, PRC [People’s Republic of China] leaders believe that achieving information dominance will enable them to seize and keep the strategic initiative, disrupt our ability to mobilize, to project and sustain the joint force, and to ensure the PRC’s desired end state.”

Meanwhile, a sale of TikTok could line up major U.S. tech giants as potential buyers, including Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon. However, it is unclear which of these companies would be in a legal position to take over TikTok, as some are already facing antitrust lawsuits.

While Google is facing an antitrust lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice and multiple attorneys general that accuses it of monopolizing digital advertising technologies, Meta is facing a lawsuit from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over its purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp.


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