The US Government Threatens to Ban TikTok If It Won’t Be Sold

The new order comes from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which pushed for the same ban under Trump.

The US government has given TikTok an ultimatum of sorts, according to the social video platform: The Biden administration has said it will potentially ban the platform nationwide if the app’s Chinese owners do not divest their stakes.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a business with 20% of its shares owned by its employees and 20% by its founders. Both of those groups live in China, and the US doesn’t like that.

This most recent news is the most extreme reaction yet, but far from the only one. Just this month, two US senators introduced new legislation aimed at giving the government the power it needs to “ban or prohibit” foreign-owned tech platforms, with TikTok at the top of the list.

This new order comes from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the same government group that pushed for the same ban under the Trump administration.

Will TikTok Be Banned?

China’s foreign ministry as already responded to the news, Reuters reports, saying that the US has not yet given any evidence that TikTok threatens national security.

TikTok has another point to make: According to the platform, even assuming national security is an issue, forcing Bytedance to divest won’t solve the problem. From TikTok’s statement:

“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access”

This doesn’t seem like empty saber-rattling, if the previous government actions are any indicator: The White House recently decreed that government agencies can’t have TikTok on federal devices. At the state level, TikTok has been banned as well. More than 30 states won’t let their employees use TikTok on government-owned devices.

TikTok’s Muddy History With the US

The US’s two-party system often disagrees on big topics, but fear of China’s power on the world stage doesn’t appear to be one of them: The previous Trump administration also took a dim view of TikTok and for the same reasons as the Biden administration.

Across 2020, the CFIUS set multiple deadlines requiring TikTok to divest from ByteDance. Trump signed an August 2020 executive order to ban TikTok, which was blocked in court. It hadn’t yet been resolved when Biden recinded the order in June 2021.

Now, Biden is back to mulling over a ban. It’s a lot of back-and-forth and throat-clearing, but there’s no denying that the US is suspicous of the app, no matter who’s in charge of the country.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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