US Launches National Security Investigation On TikTok

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The United States has recently launched a national security review of TikTok parent company ByteDance over its acquisition of social media app Musical.ly reports Reuters.

While the $1 billion acquisition was completed two years back, US lawmakers have been calling for a national security probe into TikTok.

In 2017,ByteDance bought up Musical.ly and its user base for $1 billion and last year, the app was fully rebranded as part of TikTok.

But since the deal, TikTok has been questioned by US lawmakers regarding how the company moderates its political content and stores its user data.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has started to review the Musical.ly deal, the news agency reported. TikTok, according to Reuters, did not seek clearance from the CFIUS when it acquired Musical.ly, they added, which gives the US Security panel scope to investigate it now.

In a letter last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for an investigation into the company, writing: “Chinese-owned apps are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Community Party.”

The letter followed reports that TikTok was censoring political content that was offensive to the Chinese government. (The company has said its moderation decisions are based in the US and are not influenced by any foreign government.) Rubio’s note was followed by one from Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also calling for a review.

According to Reuters, the US has now launched such a review through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which is responsible for reviewing deals with national security implications. The news service reports that TikTok did not go through a CFIUS review when it made the Musical.ly acquisition, and are in talks about national security concerns now.

The CFIUS is in talks with TikTok about the measures it could take to avoid divesting the Musical.ly assets it had acquired. However, details of that discussion could not be learned.

“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 US Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so,”a TikTok spokesperson said to Reuters.

Meanwhile TikTok says that it has no jurisdiction over the content of the app, which does not operate in China and is not influenced by any government.