Programmatic Lunch

The US government is launching an investigation into TikTok

Alyssa Clementi

ByteDance Technology, the Bejing-based owners of the popular video sharing platform TikTok, are being investigated by the US government, according to a new report from Reuters. Two undisclosed sources stated that a national security review is being launched into ByteDance’s $1bn acquisition of Musical.ly in 2017, which was then rebranded as TikTok. Per Reuter’s report, US lawmakers are concerned the Chinese company is censoring “politically sensitive content” and storing user data illegally.

According to TikTok, the app’s most popular age groups in the US are teenagers and young adults, as 60 per cent of its 26.5m MAUs are between 16 and 24 years old. But while the short-form video sharing app is gaining momentum in the states, so are the growing disputes between China and the US.

Reuters said The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which overlooks deals by foreign buyers for potential national security risks, has started questioning ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly. Additionally, TikTok did not get approval from CFIUS when it bought and rebranded Musical.ly.

“While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

Back in October, senator Marco Rubio brought up the fact that only a handful of Hong Kong protest videos had been uploaded to the app, despite the protests being headline news for months. More recently, multiple US senators brought up the possible harm the app has on national security.

“With over 110 million downloads in the US alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” senators Schumer and Cotton wrote in a letter to Joseph Macguire, acting director of national intelligence, last week.

According to the report, “TikTok also says China does not have jurisdiction over content of the app, which does not operate in China and is not influenced by any foreign government.”

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