With the pressure rising on TikTok, as it faces potential bans in the US and Europe due to concerns around its exposure to the CCP, the company has launched new efforts to win over policymakers in both regions, in the hopes of avoiding further restrictions, and losing billions in future revenue.
The concerted efforts highlight just how serious the situation has become for the company, which is also facing possible restrictions in Canada and Australia as well. And really, if one region shuts it down, it seems increasingly likely that others will follow, which could be a virtual death blow for the app.
First off, in Europe – TikTok’s European staff have launched a new effort to win over EU regulators by outlining a plan to ensure that European user data is only stored in its Ireland data center, and is not accessible by Chinese staff.
The program, called ‘Project Clover’, is being communicated to EU officials in the hopes of avoiding further action in the region.
In the US, meanwhile, TikTok has launched a similar campaign, called ‘Project Texas’, in which it’s looking to highlight how US user data will similarly be cut off from outside interference.
TikTok’s been working on that plan for some time, which it claims has already cost it over a billion dollars in development. But even so, that’s not enough assurance for some officials, with Senator Josh Hawley this week noting that staff from TikTok’s parent company ByteDance can easily access US user data, and will likely still be able to do so while the company remains under Chinese ownership.
Hawley is one of several prominent voices calling for a full ban of the app in the US, while FBI Director Christopher Wray has also reiterated his concerns about the app this week.
As per Wray (via Bloomberg):
“This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government and to me it screams out with national security concerns.”
Wray has raised similar concerns in the past, as have various other prominent security experts, which has boosted the momentum in enacting a new bill that will enable President Biden to institute a full ban on the app, if he chooses.
That bill how now been formally introduced, taking it a step closer to becoming a reality – and bringing TikTok a step closer to a US ban.
And the pressure is starting to show – this week, it also put a call out to some of its top creators asking them to show their support for the app by appearing in Washington to highlight its importance to US lawmakers.
As per The Information:
“The trip would include “standing side by side with creators and the TikTok team at the US Capital” to show TikTok’s positive impact.”
That’s an extreme step, and with US/China relations fraying, amid concerns around spy balloons, and China’s support of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the stress on TikTok is clearly reaching critical levels.
And it does seem that we’re going to get a conclusion, in some form, sometime soon.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee later this month, and that seems likely to be the key inflection point that will dictate the next steps taken, potentially in both the US and Europe.
If Chew’s answers satisfy, and he’s able to provide assurances that US user data is safe, maybe TikTok remains, but if not – which, on balance, seems more likely – it does seem like TikTok will be under threat.
The next steps then will be either a full ban, or a rapid sell-off of the app, which almost happened back in 2020, when former President Donald Trump looked to force TikTok into US ownership.
That may still be on the cards, which could eventually see a total split of the app’s operations into US, European and Chinese entities.
Essentially, TikTok’s fate is in the hands of the CCP, which seems no closer to improving foreign relations any time soon. And if they worsen, TikTok could quickly lose touch with hundreds of millions of its users.