China Says US Spreads Disinformation, Suppresses TikTok

BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday accused the United States of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok after reports emerged that the Biden government was asking its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the popular video-sharing app .

The US has yet to provide evidence that TikTok threatens its national security and uses the pretense of data security to abuse its power to suppress foreign companies, State Department spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a daily briefing.

“The US should stop spreading disinformation about data security, stop oppressing the offending company, and create an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies to invest and operate in the US,” Wang said.

TikTok on Wednesday dismissed a report in the Wall Street Journal that said the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investments, part of the Treasury Department, threatened a U.S. ban on the app unless its owner, Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., sell them.

“If protecting national security is the goal, a divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose new restrictions on data flow or access,” said TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan.

Shanahan said TikTok is already responding to concerns with “transparent, US-based protections of US user data and systems with robust third-party monitoring, review and verification.”

The Journal report cited anonymous “persons familiar with the matter.” The Treasury Department and the White House National Security Council declined to comment.

In late February, the White House gave all federal agencies 30 days to wipe TikTok from all government devices. Some agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State, already have restrictions in place. The White House already doesn’t allow TikTok on their devices.

Congress passed the No TikTok on Government Devices Act in December as part of a comprehensive government funding package. Legislation allows the use of TikTok in certain cases, including for national security, law enforcement, and research purposes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been pushing legislation that would give the Biden administration more powers to crack down on TikTok.

TikTok remains hugely popular, used by two-thirds of US teens. However, there are growing concerns that Beijing could gain control of American user data obtained by the app and spread pro-Beijing narratives and propaganda on the app.

China has long been concerned about the influence of foreign social media and communication apps, and bans most of the well-known ones, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube – and TikTok.

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