(LibertySociety.com) – TikTok, an app used daily by around 100 million Americans, is in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice after its parent company, ByteDance, admitted back in December 2022 that employees had improperly obtained the user data of a couple journalists in the United States. A journalist for Forbes Magazine, Emily Baker-White, alleges that the company was attempting to discover her sources by tracking her location. ByteDance ultimately fired an employee after conducting its own investigation into the matter, but the New York Times reported that the DOJ wants to figure out how they were able to access the information.
TikTok has been under increased scrutiny in recent months. Former President Donald Trump initially criticized the app while he was still in office due to its ties to China, but efforts to push back against it didn’t go very far. That recently changed after FBI Director Christopher Wray testified during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing in November 2022, where he stated that Chinese officials can “manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” His testimony prompted Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, to ask Google and Apple to remove the app from their app stores.
Senator Josh Hawley was able to successfully add a full ban of the app from all government devices to the most recent government spending bill in December 2022, which was widely supported by Republicans and Democrats who believe the company’s connection to the Chinese Communist Party to be a national security threat. TikTok maintains that they do not share user data with ByteDance, but Senator Ted Cruz said during a Communications Subcommittee hearing in October 2021 that sharing of user data with ByteDance is stated in TikTok’s terms and conditions.
Trump insisted in 2020 on forcing TikTok to be sold to an American company or be banned completely, which has ultimately garnered bipartisan support. Now the Biden administration is also reportedly considering a nationwide ban if they refuse to sell. The company is reportedly now looking at potential buyers, signaling a surrender in the effort to maintain its Chinese connections.
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