TikTok: Joe Biden prolongs the suspense over the banning of the Chinese application in the United States
After several years of twists and turns, TikTok should be set on its fate in the United States in the coming weeks. On an ejection seat across the Atlantic since the crusade launched by Donald Trump in the summer of 2020, the Chinese app ByteDance faces a strong front aimed at banishing it from American territory. And if TikTok hoped for more benevolence in the White House with the election of Joe Biden, it is missed. The Democratic administration is just as inflexible as that of the former Republican president.
TikTok is a video clip sharing social network that has quickly established itself as a leader in this field, available as a mobile application, you can take it with you anywhere.
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But while political pressure is growing, Joe Biden refuses for the moment to deliver a final decision. Monday, February 6, 2023, the manager kicked into touchcontenting himself with saying that he was not “not sure” that TikTok, which has more than 100 million users in the United States, be banned across the Atlantic. “I know I don’t have it on my phone”he quipped.
It is not certain that these remarks make the leaders of TikTok laugh a lot. To convince the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), ByteDance thought it had done the hardest part last year by entrusting the storage of its “domestic” data to the Oracle group. At the same time, a survey of BuzzFeed revealed that ByteDance employees accessed US user data from China between September 2021 and January 2022, at least. What sow doubt about the intentions of the Chinese. In this context, Brendan Carr, one of the commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), had called for the banning of TikTok in the national territory in the fall of 2022.
Project Texas, the ultimate weapon to stay in the United States
Back to the wall, TikTok is betting on the Texas project. This initiative aims to respond to authorities’ concerns about possible data transfers to China, which could be exploited by Beijing to expand its influence in the country of Uncle Sam. The cornerstone is a subsidiary, called US Data Security ( USDS) and created in July 2022, to bring together the most sensitive activities of TikTok and thus silence concerns related to national security. This would concern access to Americans’ data and content moderation. This entity will be overseen by an independent board of directors, which TikTok will appoint and CFIUS will review. In addition, only people of American nationality or holding the green card of legal residence will be able to work for this division.
Once that foundation is laid, that board would report to CFIUS, not ByteDance or whatever entity manages TikTok’s global operations. Additionally, Oracle would oversee data inbound and outbound from the USDS branch to ensure that data streams do not pose a risk to US national security. The US subsidiary would also be responsible for identifying vulnerabilities and any problems with TikTok’s content recommendation algorithms, as well as providing updates to application stores.
In other words, ByteDance wants to leave all the operational execution of its US activities to Oracle to show the Biden administration its credentials. To make Project Texas happen, TikTok is willing to put $1.5 billion on the table, with running costs between $700 million and $1 billion each year. The price to pay to finally have peace? It is up to the North American authorities to judge.