DOJ wants ByteDance to sell TikTok rather than ban it in the US

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TikTok, the popular social media app that has been criticized for its ties to China, is at risk of being banned outright in the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives already voted in favor of a bill that would require TikTok to be divested to a U.S. company or be banned, and TikTok’s fate now rests with the Senate. But, Department of Justice officials are having secretive meetings this week to help avoid a TikTok ban, according to The Business Times. The DOJ has a clear preference to forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok, rather than banning it altogether.

ByteDance is based in China, and there are concerns that the country’s government could use TikTok to harm the U.S. This could be through collecting data from American users, or by influencing Americans with content shown on TikTok’s “For You” page. Either way, these fears have created tremendous pressure from the U.S. government. Part of the reason that the DOJ wants ByteDance to sell TikTok is due to the app’s data. Chinese laws can force companies to hand over data to the government, and ByteDance could have to comply with a request for data, if asked.

Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, is leading the effort. Additionally, the report notes that lobbying is taking place now. In a shocking twist, there is bipartisan support for action against TikTok. But Monaco believes ByteDance can sell TikTok to avoid a ban. “What we have seen is the asset that is being sought by our adversaries is not the brick-and-mortar institution,” Monaco said, as reported by The Business Times. “The asset is the data itself.”

Will ByteDance sell TikTok after DOJ pressure?

Though the DOJ is lobbying for TikTok to be sold, it’s unlikely. There aren’t major benefits to selling TikTok for ByteDance. The app is used globally, which means U.S. users only make up a small portion of TikTok’s global user base. As such, ByteDance might rather TikTok be banned than be sold. There has been no indication that ByteDance intends to sell TikTok, even after DOJ pressure.

Additionally, leaders at ByteDance and TikTok have maintained that they plan to fight U.S. legal action. If the Senate passes legislation, TikTok and its owner will “exhaust all legal challenges,” according to Bloomberg. Similarly, TikTok has categorically denied the allegations posed by some U.S. lawmakers. The app’s algorithm is not directed by any government, it says. We’ll have to wait and see how the Senate proceeds, but a resolution could be months away.

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