The U.S. government is beginning a national security review of the Chinese-owned TikTok viral video app.
Reuters reported on the beginning of the investigation on Friday. The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is inquiring into TikTok’s parent company, Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.
Specifically, investigators are said to be probing the company’s 2017 $1 billion acquisition of another app, Musical.ly. That app was combined with TikTok in August of 2018.
Foreign companies that acquire American technology entities are subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment. TikTok’s parent was never reviewed for its acquistion of Musical.ly, and is thus being investigated after the fact for any potential discrepancies related to their business practices.
TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity, becoming one of the most popular social media apps since its initial release in 2016. It boasts more than 26 million annual users, 60% of whom are between 16-24 years old.
Much of the content uploaded on the platform is innocuous, allowing users to make easily edited videos and viral content.
Senators such as Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio have expressed concern that TikTok’s owners could be cooperating with the Chinese government to surveil Americans and implement political censorship.
The founder of Musical.ly, Alex Zhu, began to report directly to ByteDance’s Chinese CEO, Zhang Yiming. He had previously reported to a lower-ranking ByteDance subsidiary.
Hawley has called for TikTok executives to testify next week at a Senate hearing in regards to American consumer data ending up in the hands of Chinese companies. Chinese businesses are required by law to cooperate with the nation’s intelligence agencies.
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