REPORT: Chinese Government Involved In TikTok Negotiations With Biden Administration

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James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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The Chinese government has unofficially gotten involved with national security negotiations happening between the Biden administration and TikTok, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance Ltd., a China-based tech firm, where executives have reportedly discussed how the Chinese government would react to a potential business agreement with the Biden administration. Chinese officials have given advice to ByteDance about the negotiations and encouraged the firm to defend China’s interests, WSJ reported Tuesday.

The social media platform has been under national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) within the Treasury Department since 2020, and negotiations have faced delays due to persistent concerns from U.S. officials. (RELATED: FBI Director Chris Wray Says He’s ‘Extremely Concerned’ About TikTok Threat)

Biden officials and TikTok previously negotiated a draft agreement to resolve national security concerns without altering TikTok’s ownership structure, The New York Times reported in September.

ByteDance executives reportedly believe the draft arrangement is more likely to gain support from Beijing than a forced sale or technology transfer, according to WSJ. The Chinese government will likely have to approve a sale or any agreement that cedes control of TikTok’s technology to a third party.

As part of the CFIUS negotiations, TikTok has agreed to create a subsidiary for U.S. user data with oversight by Oracle Corp. and a board of national security experts. ByteDance employees in China have reportedly accessed U.S. user data on multiple occasions and used TikTok data to monitor journalists who broke unfavorable stories about American TikTok users being monitored.

It’s unclear whether the subsidiary would be immune to censorship pressures from the Chinese government. ByteDance and TikTok employ roughly 300 individuals who have worked for Chinese state media, Forbes reported in August 2022. ByteDance also created a now-inoperative news app that promoted pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) content and suppressed anti-CCP stories, according to Buzzfeed. ByteDance reportedly denied the accusations.

Chinese cyberspace regulators recently added a director from a bureau overseeing commerce to the board of ByteDance’s main Chinese entity, Beijing Douyin Information Service Co., WSJ said, citing people familiar with the matter.

A wave of U.S. states have banned TikTok from government devices because of national security concerns related to ByteDance. Similar legislation passed through Congress as part of the omnibus bill negotiated in December 2022. TikTok has repeatedly rebuked national security fears and touted the progress made by the CFIUS negotiations.

A TikTok spokesperson did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.