TikTok officials disclosed negotiation details with U.S. lawmakers in a $1.5 billion plan that would reportedly increase transparency and reorganize how it operates in the U.S. amid national security concerns about the Chinese-owned social media giant.
Communication between the video-sharing app and the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, which oversees how TikTok would operate in America, has been kept under wraps, The Wall Street Journal reported, as at least 25 states have placed restrictions and bans on the app on government-owned devices over data privacy and national security threats.
TikTok officials told The Wall Street Journal that the company believes the proposal would address such concerns, including “content recommendation and user-data access with layers of government and independent oversight.”
“We are not waiting for an agreement to be in place,” a spokeswoman said. “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.”
Growing security concerns over the social media platform have caught lawmakers’ attention recently after the Federal Communications Commission said it could not regulate the social media app or control American data from flowing back to Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which requires companies to share its data upon request under the country’s 2017 National Intelligence Law.
Solutions reported by the Journal show officials discussed creating a system to monitor the app’s algorithms and hiring watchdogs to surveil officials from Chinese tech giant ByteDance, which owns TikTok, from manipulating the user’s experience.
While some advocates for the proposal claim the measures would make it impossible for the CCP to intervene in the U.S., skeptics told the Journal that they would not trust dealing with ByteDance despite not having seen the proposal.
“It is becoming more and more untenable for a company to comply with American laws and also comply with Chinese laws,” Jacob Helberg, a senior adviser at the Stanford University Center on Geopolitics and Technology, told the outlet.
ByteDance was accused earlier this year of tracking multiple reporters at Forbes under a covert surveillance campaign, which led to employees gaining access to information such as the IP addresses of some TikTok users connected to the journalists.
Forbes reported that ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department was responsible for the alleged plan to monitor the locations of specific American citizens.
Federal officials also restricted the app as part of the $1.7 trillion spending passed in December under the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced, which he referred to TikTok as “a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) recently compared TikTok to “digital fentanyl” amid efforts to ban the app in the U.S.
Gallagher previously introduced legislation with Illinois Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi to ban the app altogether.
He expressed worry to the Journal about how much influence the CCP has over video shares and user data privacy, saying the app could potentially censor videos critical of the Chinese government.
“For younger users, the concern isn’t that they’re using TikTok just to watch stupid videos,” said Mr. Gallagher, who co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. “It’s that they’re relying on TikTok to get their news.”
U.S. officials could reportedly try to force the ByteDance to sell some of its operations or leave the U.S. if a deal hasn’t been reached with TikTok.