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TikTok offers to have third-party check if China spying on US users

TikTok has reportedly proposed to have an independent, third-party monitor check the social media app’s algorithms to determine if the Chinese government is accessing Americans’ user data.

As part of the reported plan, US-based tech entities such as Oracle would review the code governing how TikTok chooses the videos that users see and which videos are deleted.

The proposed reorganization is part of the ByteDance-owned app’s attempt to convince US lawmakers that it is not allowing Beijing to spy on American users of the popular video-sharing platform.

TikTok has also offered to create a subsidiary, TikTok US Data Security (USDS), which would report to an outside board of directors with a “primary fiduciary responsibility” to the US government, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The USDS would hire 2,500 people to monitor the app’s safety mechanisms. None of those hired would be Chinese nationals since the subsidiary would be beholden to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), according to the Journal.

CFIUS is a federal agency that operates under the auspices of the Treasury Department. It is tasked with reviewing transactions involving foreign investment in the US.

TikTok has been in talks with CFIUS for the past two years seeking to satisfy the Biden administration’s demands to implement safeguards that would protect Americans’ data from alleged spying.

A spokesperson for TikTok told the Journal: “We are not waiting for an agreement to be in place.”

TikTok has proposed a $1.5 billion reorganization that would allow third parties to monitor and safeguard the app’s algorithm.
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“We’ve made substantial progress on implementing that solution over the past year and look forward to completing that work to put these concerns to rest.”

If no agreement is reached, the Biden administration could force ByteDance to sell off the US division of TikTok or it could outright ban the app from the US altogether.

Several governors have moved to ban state employees from using TikTok on their government-issued devices.

ByteDance has long denied allegations that TikTok conducts espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

TikTok has exploded in popularity in recent years, particularly among Gen Z millennials who have migrated away from dominant social media rivals such as Facebook and Instagram.

It is estimated that TikTok has more than 700 million active users worldwide — some 100 million of whom are in the United States, an astronomical figure considering that the app had just 11 million American users in 2018, according to CNBC.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy, told The Post: “Certain US politician’s comments are just groundless slanders.”

“The company concerned is a private enterprise that conducts business in the US in accordance with market principles and international rules and complies with US laws and regulations,” the spokesperson said.

“The US government should give it fair, just and non-discriminatory treatment.”

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