The TikTok law kicks off a new showdown between Beijing and Washington. What's coming next? (2024)

WASHINGTON (AP) — TikTok is gearing up for a legal fight against a U.S. law that would force the social media platform to break ties with its China-based parent company, a move almost certainly backed by Chinese authorities as the bitter U.S.-China rivalry threatens the future of a wildly popular way for young people in America to connect online.

Beijing has signaled TikTok should fight what it has called a “robbers” act by U.S. lawmakers “to snatch from others all the good things that they have.” Should a legal challenge fail, observers say Chinese authorities are unlikely to allow a sale, a move that could be seen as surrendering to Washington.

Beijing may not want the U.S. action against the popular short-form video platform to set a “bad precedent,” said Alex Capri, senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore and research fellow at Hinrich Foundation. “If Beijing capitulates to the U.S., where does it end?”

In its first official response to the new law, parent company ByteDance delivered a statement Thursday on Toutiao — a Chinese news app it owns — stating it “doesn’t have any plan to sell TikTok.” The Beijing-based firm was responding to media reports that said it was exploring scenarios for selling TikTok’s U.S. business.


Highway collapse in China’s southern Guangdong province leaves at least 19 dead

Chinese scientist who published COVID-19 virus sequence allowed back in his lab after sit-in protest

Georgia governor signs bill into law restricting land sales to some Chinese citizens

The legislation that U.S. President Joe Biden signed this week could allow Washington to widen its scope to target other China-related apps, such as the popular e-commerce platform Temu, and embolden U.S. allies to follow suit, said Hu Xijin, a former editor-in-chief for the party-run newspaper Global Times.

With 170 million American users, TikTok should “have more guts to fight to the very end and refuse to surrender,” Hu, now a political commentator, said Wednesday on Chinese social media.

TikTok vowed to challenge the new U.S. law, which requires ByteDance to divest its stakes within a year to avoid a ban. The company has characterized the law as an infringement on the free speech rights of its users, most of whom use the app for entertainment.

“We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail,” the company wrote on the social platform X.

The fight over TikTok has increased tensions between the U.S. and China, with both vowing to protect their economic and national security interests. U.S. lawmakers are concerned the Chinese ownership of the app could allow Beijing to exert unwanted influence in the U.S., especially on young minds. The law has followed a string of successes by Washington in curbing the influence of Chinese companies through bans, export controls and forced divestitures, drawing protests from Beijing that the U.S. is bent on suppressing China’s rise through economic coercion.

The U.S. has forced other Chinese companies to divest before, including in 2020, when Beijing Kunlun, a Chinese mobile video game company, agreed to sell the gay dating app Grindr after receiving a federal order. But TikTok, created by a Chinese company only for the overseas market and evidence of the nation’s tech powers on the global stage, is a high-profile case that Beijing does not want to lose.

National dignity is at stake and could “take precedence over the financial interests of ByteDance investors,” including global investors who own 60% of the company, said Gabriel Wildau, managing director of the New York-headquartered consulting and advisory firm Teneo.

A legal challenge from the company is expected to lean on First Amendment concerns and could drag on for years. Beijing is betting on a legal win, analysts say.

What to do if TikTok doesn’t prevail is likely still being debated with the Chinese leadership, said Dominic Chiu, an analyst with Eurasia Group. President Xi Jinping, who will have to sign off on whether to permit or prohibit the sale, probably has not made the final decision, Chiu said.

Luckily for Xi, there is no urgency for Beijing to decide, said Sun Yun, director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center. “A lot of things could change,” she said.

If lawmakers get their wish and a sale does occur, it’s likely to be a challenging and messy process for TikTok, which would have to disentangle its U.S. operations from everything else.

For one, the price tag for TikTok’s U.S. business — which is unknown — is expected to be high enough to severely limit the pool of investors and companies who’d be able to afford it. Some investors — including former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — have already positioned themselves as potential buyers of a U.S. version of TikTok. ByteDance, which is privately held, is valued at $220 billion, according to market tracker Pitchbook.

And there’s uncertainty about what would happen with the TikTok algorithm, the secret sauce that feeds users short videos based on their interests and has contributed to the platform’s status as a cultural juggernaut.

ByteDance would be barred from controlling the algorithm of a U.S. spinoff of TikTok. Many experts believe Chinese authorities would block any sale of the technology that populates people’s TikTok feeds under export regulations revised in 2020, when then-President Donald Trump unsuccessfully tried to ban TikTok through an executive order that was blocked in federal courts.

Some, including Mnuchin, have said TikTok would need to be rebuilt in the U.S. using new technology. But it’s unclear what that might look like, or how well it can reproduce the type of video recommendations users have grown accustomed to seeing.

Robin Burke, a professor of information science at the University of Colorado Boulder, says some aspects of the algorithm might be replicated by industry insiders. But he also noted there are areas where TikTok appears ahead of its competitors and duplication might prove challenging.

“TikTok has all the experience, they have all the data,” Burke said. “I think it’s unlikely that a U.S. business — if they don’t inherit the technology from the parent company — would be able to build something equivalent. Certainly not right away.”


AP journalist Dake Kang contributed from Beijing.

The TikTok law kicks off a new showdown between Beijing and Washington. What's coming next? (2024)


Is TikTok owned by China? ›

'Shaking Sound'), is a short-form video hosting service owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance. It hosts user-submitted videos, which can range in duration from three seconds to 10 minutes. It can be accessed with a smart phone app. TikTok Pte. Ltd.

Why is TikTok banned in the USA? ›

Concerns that the Chinese government could access sensitive user data through the short-form video app TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, have prompted the U.S. government to pass legislation banning the social media platform unless it is sold to a government-approved buyer.

What countries have banned TikTok? ›

These countries have already banned TikTok
  • Afghanistan. TikTok has been banned since 2022, along with videogame PUBG, after the country's Taliban leadership decided to forbid access on the grounds of protecting young people from “being misled.”
  • Australia. ...
  • Belgium. ...
  • Canada. ...
  • Denmark. ...
  • European Union. ...
  • France. ...
  • India.
Apr 26, 2024

What's going on with TikTok? ›

If you're one of the more than 150 million Americans who use TikTok, you may have heard that Congress passed a bill that could result in the incredibly popular app being banned. President Joe Biden signed it into law on Wednesday.

What person owns TikTok? ›

Zhang Yiming (Chinese: 张一鸣; born April 1, 1983) is a Chinese internet entrepreneur. He founded ByteDance in 2012, developed the news aggregator Toutiao and the video sharing platform Douyin (internationally known as TikTok).

Is TikTok getting banned in 2024? ›

Even without the extension, the earliest a ban could start is January 2025. With the extension, it would be April. And with TikTok threatening legal action, the matter could get tied up in the courts for even longer.

Is TikTok going away? ›

TikTok, which is used by more than 170 million Americans, most likely won't disappear from your phone even if an eventual ban does take effect. But it would disappear from Apple and Google's app stores, which means users won't be able to download it.

Is TikTok banned in 30 states? ›

As of April 2023, at least 34 out of 50 states have announced or enacted bans on state government agencies, employees, and contractors using TikTok on government-issued devices. State bans only affect government employees and do not prohibit civilians from having or using the app on their personal devices.

Who is TikTok CEO? ›

Chew Shou Zi (Chinese: 周受资, born 1 January 1983), commonly known as Shou Zi Chew, is a Singaporean businessman and entrepreneur who has been serving as the chief executive officer of TikTok, an online video platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance, since 2021.

Is TikTok banned in Italy? ›

Italy bans TikTok due of non-compliant processing of data targeting minors. The National Center for Personal Data Protection (NCPDP), for information and application purposes, communicates about the prohibition by the Italian Data Protection Authority – Garante, of personal data processing of TikTok users.

Is TikTok a safe app? ›

More than 150 million Americans use TikTok, but is TikTok safe? It's as safe as just about any other social media platform. It doesn't infect your phone with malware, but it comes with some safety risks like scams and saved user data. Here's what you need to know to stay safe on TikTok.

What will happen if TikTok gets banned? ›

In a statement, TikTok said it is "unfortunate" that lawmakers are "using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 ...

Why is TikTok removing music? ›

In early February, TikTok began removing songs from UMG's most popular artists, including Taylor Swift, Drake, and Olivia Rodrigo, after the two companies failed to renew their music licensing agreement.

Why not to watch TikTok? ›

Cyberbullying risks

As a social media platform, TikTok opens avenues for cyberbullying and trolling. "When videos aren't funny or successful, they're referred to as 'cringey,'" Jordan explains. "It provides fodder for bullies to make fun of them.

Does TikTok send data to China? ›

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, based on internal reports from TikTok employees, the platform is indeed still providing U.S. user data to staff at ByteDance, its Chinese parent, even as it goes about siloing U.S. user data as part of “Project Texas”, which it pitched to U.S. regulators as a key ...

Why is TikTok banned in India? ›

Then, on June 29, 2020, the Indian government announced the ban on Tiktok, along with 58 other Chinese apps, after a border dispute between India and China flared into violence. The apps disappeared from Google and Apple stores, and their websites were blocked.

Which American food companies are owned by China? ›

These are large multinational companies like Smithfield Foods, Syngenta, or the Walton International Group, which are all either owned by another Chinese company or Chinese investors. There are some individuals who do own this land, though, and they've owned it for decades, since the '70s and even the '80s.

How does TikTok make money? ›

TikTok generates revenue from ad revenue and in-app gift purchases. The ads function synonymously as those from other social media platforms: advertisers select their target demographic and TikTok places this messaging in front of the advertiser's desired audience.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Allyn Kozey

Last Updated:

Views: 6145

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Allyn Kozey

Birthday: 1993-12-21

Address: Suite 454 40343 Larson Union, Port Melia, TX 16164

Phone: +2456904400762

Job: Investor Administrator

Hobby: Sketching, Puzzles, Pet, Mountaineering, Skydiving, Dowsing, Sports

Introduction: My name is Allyn Kozey, I am a outstanding, colorful, adventurous, encouraging, zealous, tender, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.