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TikTok Offered US Option To Majorly Control & Shut Down The Social Media Platform Throughout The Country

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TikTok has disclosed that it previously offered the United States government significant control over its operations, including the ability to shut down the platform entirely. This information has come to light as the social media giant and its parent company, ByteDance, mount a legal challenge against recent US legislation threatening to ban the app.

The controversial law, signed by President Joe Biden in April, mandates that ByteDance divest TikTok’s US assets or face prohibition. This stemmed from the longstanding concerns that the platform might be sharing data from its 170 million US users with the Chinese government. TikTok and ByteDance are contesting this legislation, arguing that it undermines America’s commitment to internet freedom and sets a troubling precedent for targeting specific platforms based on political motivations.

In their legal submission, they argue that the new law represents

“a radical departure from this country’s tradition of championing an open Internet and sets a dangerous precedent allowing the political branches to target a disfavored speech platform and force it to sell or be shut down.”

They claim the US government has been unwilling to engage in meaningful settlement discussions since 2022, despite TikTok’s attempts to address security concerns. They stated that invitations to inspect their company’s Dedicated Transparency Center in Maryland went unanswered.

The proposed “kill switch” was part of a draft National Security Agreement presented in August 2022. This agreement would have required TikTok to adhere to strict data protection measures and ensure ByteDance couldn’t access US user data. If they failed to comply, the US government would have had the authority to suspend the platform’s operations in the country.

While TikTok maintains that US user data is securely managed within the country under Project Texas, overseen by American company Oracle, recent investigations have raised questions about the effectiveness of these measures. A 2024 report published by the Wall Street Journal suggested ongoing data exchanges between TikTok’s US operations and ByteDance in China, further complicating the issue.

A US government official, speaking to the Washington Post, stated that TikTok’s proposed solution was “insufficient to address the serious national security risks presented” and maintained that “divestment from its foreign ownership was and remains necessary.”

Nevertheless, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is set to hear oral arguments from TikTok, ByteDance, and TikTok users in September. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications for internet freedom, data privacy, and international tech relations.

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