Amid ongoing bans of the app within government-related organizations, and lingering questions about the CCPs influence over its operations, TikTok’s future in the US is looking increasingly shaky. And this latest update doesn’t, on the face of it, bode well for its future.
According to Reuters, TikTok has paused its hiring process for a group of US-based consultants that would help to implement the final requirements of its potential security agreement with the US Government.
Just before Christmas, TikTok, which has been under investigation by the Committee for Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) for years, had appeared to be close to a securing final sign-off on a deal that would ensure its ongoing operation in the US. But around the same time, reports emerged that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance had been spying on several American journalists, via TikTok, due to concerns that these journalists had been in contact with ByteDance staff, and had gained access to commercially sensitive information.
This, combined with the ongoing bans on government-affiliated accounts, which are spreading through the US, and ongoing warnings about the app from top security personnel, seems to have stuttered the deal’s progress. Which could have big implications for TikTok moving forward.
Indeed, 19 US states have now at least partially blocked TikTok access on government devices, while representatives from the FBI and the FCC have called for a full ban of the app due to ongoing concerns about Chinese Government interference.
The reports of alleged spying, undermining all of TikTok’s many assurances to US officials, seems to have sparked more significant hesitation among CFIUS and White House decision-makers, to the point where, at least right now, it seems like a potential operational deal may be off.
Which could mean that a TikTok ban, instead, is back on the agenda.
Definitely, the revelations that China-based officials have actually used TikTok as a spying device, in order to monitor US journalists, is a major concern, and investigations are likely underway into exactly how this occurred, and what TikTok knew about such an operation.
If ByteDance has actually utilized TikTok in this way, then it seems likely that all deals will be off, and that sanctions, further restrictions, or entirely new requirements may be imposed on the app.
Could that extend to a full ban of the app in the US, which former US President Donald Trump sought to implement back in 2020?
Looking at the range of considerations, I would say yes – and if TikTok is now halting its $1.5 billion plan to meet the US Government’s demands on this front, that seems like a very real possibility.
There’s still a long way to go, but the mounting concerns do point to an inflection point coming for the app, sometime very soon.