The Biden administration had reportedly sought to gain extensive control over the popular social media platform TikTok as part of negotiations to allow its continued operation in the United States. According to a draft agreement obtained by Forbes, the agreement, which spanned nearly 100 pages, would have given the White House even greater control over TikTok than what it had over US-based competitors like Facebook and Twitter.
To ensure compliance, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance would have been required to submit to outside audits, assessments, code inspections, and cybersecurity checks conducted by supposedly independent entities chosen by the US government. The costs for these intrusions would have been borne by the company. Furthermore, TikTok’s US staff could have been compelled to exclude ByteDance’s executives from security-related decisions, deferring instead to an executive security committee whose actions would have been concealed from ByteDance. The committee’s primary responsibility would have been to prioritize US national security over TikTok’s profitability.
The draft agreement, which was dated last summer, was the result of months of negotiations between ByteDance and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The CFIUS oversees foreign involvement in business deals that may have national security implications and had been investigating ByteDance for four years. The ongoing scrutiny of TikTok stems from concerns raised by both President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, who claimed that the platform was being used by Beijing for information warfare.
In March, the CFIUS once again called for a ban or forced sale of TikTok’s US assets after the Department of Justice launched an investigation into ByteDance employees who had allegedly used the platform to spy on American journalists. ByteDance confirmed the surveillance but attributed it to rogue employees who had since been terminated.
TikTok boasts over 150 million American users who spend at least 90 minutes on the platform. To address concerns about data security, the company pledged in 2021 to isolate US user data on servers owned by tech giant Oracle. However, in December, President Biden prohibited the use of TikTok by federal employees, and numerous state and city governments have followed suit.
In conclusion, the draft agreement between the Biden administration and TikTok highlights the considerable level of control that the US government sought to exert over the platform. The proposed measures aimed to ensure the security of user data and protect against potential foreign influence. However, due to concerns over privacy and potential government overreach, the negotiations continue to raise significant questions about the future of TikTok in the United States.