US investigation into TikTok, the Chinese company allegedly spied on several American journalists
New American lunge on TitkTok. The Justice Department would have opened an investigation to understand whether the parent company of the social network, the Chinese Bytedance, has spied on several American journalists in recent years. Many of these deal with technology. The investigation was revealed by the New York Times which cites several sources.
The investigation, which began at the end of 2022, would be linked to Bytedance’s admission of having discovered some employees who would have had illegal access to the data of several American citizens: at least two journalists and some people close to them. The intrusion into the accounts would have occurred in order to identify who had been to provide the media with internal information about the company. One such reporter had been a Forbes reporter, who first broke the story of the investigation. Two of the accused employees are in China.
The US squeeze on TikTok. Biden to ask Bytedance to sell
The criminal division of the department, the FBI and a prosecutor would investigate. No confirmation at the moment from the American authorities. But the news comes at a time when the US grip on TikTok is increasing.
The Biden administration asked Bytedance to sell its TikTok shares on Thursday. A move that follows the introduction of a law in the US that effectively prohibits the use of apps, software or other technologies produced abroad that could endanger national security. TikTok is the main suspect.
The rise of Bytedance, which with Tiktok is worth 250 billion
With the rise of its social network, Bytedance has become one of the startups with the highest market value in the world: its current value is 250 billion. While the valuation of TikTok alone could reach 100 billion in 2023. But the fact that the company is in Beijing alarms the United States and allied states. Growing geopolitical tensions between the US and China have prompted several countries to pass laws limiting the use of TikTok. In Europe. In Asia and Oceania.
The last, in chronological order, is New Zealand. Wellington has imposed a ban on installing the app on devices that access Parliament’s internet. Cause: It is feared that any ports in the app could be opened by engineers in Beijing and enter the institutional computer network.
Bans around the world. From Afghanistan to the EU but for different reasons
A history of bans that dates back to three years ago. It was India that inaugurated the dances. In June 2020, it banned the use of TikTok across the country. Together with TikTok, a dozen applications developed in China. In Asia, Afghanistan has also banned the app. For the Taliban, Tiktok corrupts the moral integrity of young Afghans. The same move was decided by Pakistan, which directly accused the social network of promoting and spreading immoral content.
Taiwan banned TikTok and other Chinese apps on publicly owned devices in December 2022, launching an investigation into the app, suspecting it of carrying out spying operations.
Last February, the European Commission and the European Parliament ordered their employees to uninstall TikTok from corporate devices. The alarm, raised by a security office in Brussels, immediately reached the tables of the commission which issued the alarm from there.
Washington and the beginning of doubts about Tiktok
But it is from Washington that it all started. In May 2020, the US Committee on Foreign Investments (CFIUS), a national security agency, called for action to get Bytedance to sell Tiktok. The fear is that the data on the use of the app by American citizens could end up in the hands of Beijing. Both Democrats and Republicans have since begun to present bills to ban the app in the US.
In December 2022, Congress banned the use of the app on federal devices, anticipating the European Commission by a few months. From then on it was a chain reaction involving institutions, universities and companies. In Oklahoma and Texas, several universities have banned their students from accessing TikTok from the university internet. In turn, Maryland, Alabama, Utah and 22 other states have banned the use of the app on government devices.
Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal, a group of Silicon Valley executives, including investor Peter Thiel, and some Washington lawmakers are mobilizing to curb China’s role in the US technology industry, in view of the testimony of the head of TikTok Shou Zi Chew on Capitol Hill next week.
According to the American newspaper, the two sides will meet during a private dinner on Wednesday to discuss China, national security and the intensifying competition between the technology sectors of the United States and China. Chew’s testimony is scheduled for the next day.