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US pushes TikTok to either sell China-linked ByteDance to American investors or face complete ban

The measure is also the latest in a series of moves in Washington to respond to US national security concerns about China, from connected vehicles to advanced artificial intelligence chips to cranes at US ports.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Published on: March 14, 2024 19:30 IST
TikTok
Image Source : AP TikTok

Washington: Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he's going to put together an investor group to buy TikTok. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he's going to put together an investor group to buy TikTok, a day after the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban the popular video app in the US if its China-based owner doesn't sell its stake.

Speaking on CNBC's “Squawk Box,” Mnuchin said on Thursday that he believes TikTok should be sold. “This should be owned by US businesses. There's no way that the Chinese would ever let a US company own something like this in China,” Mnuchin said on the program.

The House bill, passed by a vote of 352-65, now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are unclear. TikTok, which has more than 170 million American users, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance Ltd.

Why does the US want to ban TikTok? 

TikTok's fate has become a major issue in Washington. Democratic and Republican lawmakers said their offices had received large volumes of calls from teenage TikTok users who oppose the legislation, with the volume of complaints at times exceeding the number of calls seeking a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The measure is also the latest in a series of moves in Washington to respond to US national security concerns about China, from connected vehicles to advanced artificial intelligence chips to cranes at US ports.

The vote comes just over a week since the bill was proposed following one public hearing with little debate, and after action in Congress had stalled for more than a year. Last month, President Joe Biden's re-election campaign joined TikTok, raising hopes among TikTok officials that legislation was unlikely this year. The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week voted 50-0 in favour of the bill, setting it up for a vote before the full House.

TikTok CEO responds to ban

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday on a previously scheduled trip to talk to senators, a source briefed on the matter said. "This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States," the company said before the vote. "The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression," it added. 

Biden said last week that he would sign the bill. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday the goal was ending Chinese ownership, not banning TikTok. "Do we want TikTok, as a platform, to be owned by an American company or owned by China? Do we want the data from TikTok - children's data, adults’ data - to be going, to be staying here in America or going to China?" he said. 

It is unclear whether China would approve any sale or if TikTok's US assets could be divested in six months. If ByteDance failed to do so, app stores operated by Apple AAPL.O, Alphabet's GOOGL.O Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat but was blocked by the courts. 

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: China responds to US House vote on TikTok ban: 'Resorting to hegemonic moves when one cannot succeed'

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