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TikTok seen moving towards US security deal but hurdles remain

The two sides have hammered out the foundations of a deal in which TikTok would make changes to its data security and governance without requiring its owner, the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, to sell it

By Lauren Hirsch, David McCabe, Katie Benner and Glenn Thrush
Published: Sep 27, 2022

TikTok seen moving towards US security deal but hurdles remainTikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media apps, has been under a legal cloud in the United States for more than two years because of its Chinese ties Image: Vivien Killilea / Getty Images via AFP
 
The Biden administration and TikTok have drafted a preliminary agreement to resolve national security concerns posed by the Chinese-owned video app but face hurdles over the terms, as the platform negotiates to keep operating in the United States without major changes to its ownership structure, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

The two sides have hammered out the foundations of a deal in which TikTok would make changes to its data security and governance without requiring its owner, the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, to sell it, said three of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

The two sides are still wrangling over the potential agreement. The Justice Department is leading the negotiations with TikTok, and its No. 2 official, Lisa Monaco, has concerns that the terms are not tough enough on China, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The Treasury Department, which plays a key role in approving deals involving national security risks, is also skeptical that the potential agreement with TikTok can sufficiently resolve national security issues, two people with knowledge of the matter said. That could force changes to the terms and drag out a final resolution for months.

TikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media apps, has been under a legal cloud in the United States for more than two years because of its Chinese ties. Lawmakers and regulators have repeatedly raised concerns about TikTok’s ability to protect the data of American users from Chinese authorities. In 2020, President Donald Trump tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company and threatened to block the app.

Also read: On TikTok, election misinformation thrives

If completed, an agreement with the Biden administration is likely to be highly scrutinized, as TikTok has become a symbol of the Cold War-like atmosphere in relations between Beijing and Washington. As part of the tit for tat, the nations are battling over primacy in technology and digital data. Skepticism toward China is a built-in feature of U.S. politics, and the talks are taking place just weeks before November’s midterm elections.

Completing an agreement may also be difficult at a tricky political moment for the Biden administration, which has stepped up its cadence of criticism and executive actions addressing China.

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©2019 New York Times News Service

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