Uncertain future for TikTok in the United States

It’s a year under high tension that awaits TikTok in the United States. A law, ratified last week by the American president Joe Bidenprohibited the popular video sharing platform on civil servants’ devices. It also attacks its use in the House of Representatives and the Senate. And the increased weight in Congress of the Republicans, who hold the majority in the Houserisks complicating the situation even more for the platform.

Conservative elected officials accuse TikTok, owned by Chinese giant ByteDance, of being a tool of espionage or propaganda in the service of Beijing. TikTok is the equivalent of “ fentanyl digital,” said Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher, one of the leading anti-China voices in Congress, comparing the app to the drug that has caused many overdose deaths in the USA.

“It’s highly addictive and destructive and we’re seeing disturbing data about the devastating impact of constant social media use, especially on young American men and women,” he told NBC News. “We have to ask ourselves if we want the chinese communist party (PCC) controls what is on the verge of becoming the most powerful media group in the United States,” he added. A spokesperson for TikTok, quoted in American media, formally denied these accusations, assuring that the CCP “has no direct or indirect control over ByteDance or TikTok”.

rain of criticism

The US federal law follows dozens of similar bans at the state or local level. To have a chance of continuing to be authorized on all American smartphones, TikTok USA may have to separate from ByteDance. It was already the wish expressed by former President Donald Trump who had ordered that the activities of TikTok in the United States are sold to the American groups Oracle and Walmart. His successor Joe Biden adopted a less drastic stance after taking office.

But relations with TikTok soured significantly last month when ByteDance had to admit that employees improperly accessed user data to track journalists to identify the source of media leaks. A rain of criticism fell on TikTok, in the United States and abroad. The French President Emmanuel Macron notably accused the Chinese social network to censor content and encourage online addiction among young people.

Attempt to agree

TikTok has been trying for months to find a long-term partnership with the US government through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Sources familiar with the matter revealed that TikTok and the Biden administration were close to reaching an agreement that would have spelled out strict safeguards for US user data. But negotiations have stalled, especially as FBI Director Christopher Wray has said he continues to view TikTok as a threat to US national security.

Christopher Wray warned last month that Beijing has the ability to control the app’s algorithm, making American users vulnerable to a government “that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s completely at odds with the best interests of the United States”. For its part, TikTok categorically denies that the Chinese government wields such influence.

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Uncertain future for TikTok in the United States

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