TikTok is being investigated by Justice Dep’t for SPYING on journalists
The US Justice Department is investigating ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, for spying on US citizens, including several journalists.
Based in Beijing, ByteDance is headquartered in the Cayman Islands and is said to be close to the Communist Chinese government.
The company admitted in December that it improperly obtained the data of US TikTok users, including at least two reporters, according to the New York Times.
Forbes reporter Emily Baker-White, who covered the story, wrote that she was one of the journalists whose data was taken.
It comes as the Biden administration threatens to ban TikTok in the US unless the Chinese owner sells its shares in the app.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the investigation.
ByteDance is based in Beijing, with headquarters in the Cayman Islands and reportedly having close ties to the Communist Chinese government. The Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok in the US unless the Chinese owner sells its shares in the app
ByteDance claims that the employees who allegedly spied on people were fired after trying to uncover sources of leaks from internal discussions within the company.
Two of the employees worked from the Beijing office. The company claims it is working to prevent the actions from happening again.
The news broke on the same day that a bipartisan group of six senators backed legislation to give President Joe Biden new powers to ban the Chinese video app TikTok.
Earlier this month, 12 senators led by Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Thune unveiled legislation backed by the White House to give the Commerce Department new powers to address TikTok concerns, which has more than 100 million US users.
The announcement comes after TikTok said this week that the Biden administration had demanded that the Chinese owners divest their stake in the company or face a potential US ban.
The demand was made by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States and specifies that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is selling its stake in the US version of the app.
It’s unclear if federal officials have given ByteDance a deadline to sell.
Hilary McQuaide, a TikTok spokesperson, confirmed to DaiyMail.com that the demand had been made, but suggested the changes would not increase the security of US citizens’ data.
Pictured: Attorney General Merrick Garland. The Justice Department declined to comment on the investigation
Forbes reporter Emily Baker-White (pictured), who covered the story, wrote that she was one of the journalists whose data was taken
The Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok in the US unless its Chinese owner, ByteDance, sells its shares in the app. The photo features Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok
The claim has been filed by the US Committee on Foreign Investments, chaired by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
“If protecting national security is the goal, divestment does not solve the problem: a change of ownership would not impose new restrictions on data flows or access,” she said in a statement.
“The best way to address national security concerns is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting and verification, which we are already implementing,” she added please.
TikTok critics have said Chinese laws require Chinese companies to share data with the Chinese government.
The company is instead proposing a $1.5 billion security plan called Project Texas, under which US users’ data will be shielded and monitored by Texas-based Oracle.
The plan would include independent observers and auditors to ensure that neither ByteDance nor Chinese officials would have access to certain data.
The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) is an interagency committee that oversees the national security risks of foreign investment. It is chaired by Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, but its members include the heads of the Justice, Defense, State and Energy ministries.
TikTok critics have said Chinese laws require Chinese companies to share data with the Chinese government
ByteDance employees walk past ByteDance’s headquarters in Beijing in 2020. The executives say 60 percent of the shares are held by foreign investors
In 2020, President Trump (pictured in 2020) gave Chinese company ByteDance 90 days to divest of all assets used to support the popular TikTok app in the United States. His government’s efforts were blocked in court
TikTok executives have said that 60 percent of ByteDance shares are held by global investors, 20 percent by employees and 20 percent by founders, according to the Wall Street Journalwho first reported on the question.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next Thursday.
The request comes after a dozen US senators unveiled a bipartisan bill last week that gives President Biden the authority to ban TikTok nationwide.
The Restrict Act would allow the US Department of Commerce to declare companies with foreign ties as national security risks.
Last December, the Senate passed a bill to ban TikTok on government devices.
In 2020, the Trump administration threatened to ban TikTok unless the app was sold to a US company. Those efforts were thwarted when ByteDance went to court to oppose the ban.
It argued that it would violate the Berman Amendments, which allow the free flow of “information materials” from hostile countries.