What you need to know
- TikTok is a social media video app that allows users to share punchy, short videos with others.
- The company is owned by ByteDance, one of the fastest-growing tech startups in China.
- The U.S. government is launching an inquiry into its $1 billion acquisition of Musical.ly, citing concerns over national security and censorship.
The U.S. government is seemingly growing more suspicions of Chinese companies, as it has put yet another Chinese tech giant in its crosshairs, citing national security concerns: TikTok. The social media app has become increasingly more popular among teens and tweens in the U.S., though you'd never know the company behind it, ByteDance, is actually Chinese.
And that heritage is starting to land the 'new Vine' in trouble, as the Trump administration launches a probe into the firm's $1 billion acquisition of Musical.ly, a full two years after the transaction took place in November 2017, reports Reuters.
Alongside this, various U.S. officials have raised questions about claims of content censorship by TikTok, some of which our Russell Holly discussed earlier this week. Concerns about where American users' data is stored also fuelled calls for an investigation in recent weeks. TikTok says the data is stored within the U.S. itself. But critics of the company have pointed out that its parent company, ByteDance, abides by Chinese law, which some say requires companies to enable the Chinese government to have full access to data if so requested — a charge that's also been leveled against Huawei in its ongoing struggles with the U.S. government.
TikTok for its part is, as expected, pledging full support to any investigations:
"While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so."
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) typically reviews such deals, and TikTok did not seek approval from the organization before finalizing its acquisition of Musical.ly, giving the CFIUS grounds for impaneling and inquiry into the agreement now. The specifics of CFIUS' investigations are not known at this moment, but the report suggests the regulator is in talks with TikTok over how it can avoid having to undo its purchase.