The United States government has confirmed it has started an investigation into Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. Specifically, the national review will review the company's $1 billion acquisition of U.S.-based app Musical.ly. Beijing ByteDance is best known as the parent company of video-focused social media network TikTok.
Lawmakers in the United States have been pushing for an investigation into TikTok for some time. A national security probe has been called for following suspicious the Chinese social media network is censoring political data. There are also concerns about how the company handles user data and privacy.
In recement months, TikTok's userbase in the United States has grown as it becomes increasingly popular with teenagers. This growth has coincided with mounting tensions and trade scuffles between the U.S. government and China. During October 2018, the app was the most downloaded in the United States.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), believes ByteDance did not seek clearance before purchasing Musical.ly. The security panel has been in talks with TikTok about how it can avoid divesting all Musical.ly's assets.
“While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so,” a TikTok spokesperson said. ByteDance did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton spearheaded the review when they called for it last week. Both are concerned the company collects data and is at risk from foreign influence operations.
“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” Schumer and Cotton wrote to Joseph Macguire, acting director of national intelligence.