March 13, 2024 | Insight

Five Compelling Reasons for the Strategic Divestment of TikTok

March 13, 2024 | Insight

Five Compelling Reasons for the Strategic Divestment of TikTok

Amid escalating concerns over potential Chinese interference in the U.S. election, divesting TikTok from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, offers a balanced, technologically feasible solution that safeguards innovation and fortifies U.S. national security. Divestment ensures that TikTok can remain a catalyst for creativity and economic expansion — but under new ownership that respects U.S. laws and values.

1. Divestment balances innovation and national security

    Millions of Americans rely on TikTok to promote their businesses and reach new audiences but keeping TikTok under Chinese control is simply not an option owing to the Chinese government’s stranglehold over the platform’s algorithm and all user data. The Department of Justice has recognized that existing laws do not adequately mitigate the national security threats arising from TikTok’s Chinese ownership, but that divestiture could effectively neutralize such risks. In contrast to an outright ban, divestment ensures TikTok users can continue to leverage this dynamic platform, albeit without the Chinese government determining what content users see, and just as importantly, what content they don’t.

      2. Only divestment can protect users’ privacy

      Stronger privacy protection laws alone won’t solve TikTok’s national security puzzle. TikTok’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party create data protection challenges unlike those presented by any American social media company. Even the European Union (EU), renowned for its rigorous privacy regulations, has stumbled in tackling the app’s security threats, leading officials there to ban TikTok on EU devices. This move underscores that robust privacy regulations alone are not enough to mitigate TikTok’s risks and that divestment is necessary to address the unique challenges posed by its problematic Chinese ownership structure.

      3. Divestment protects free speech from China

      Divestment is not about stifling speech; it is about safeguarding against Beijing’s control over vital communication platforms so China cannot suppress free speech. Divestment is a targeted approach aimed at defending national security without compromising our fundamental freedoms. While free speech is a cornerstone of democracy, it is important to recognize that foreign entities, like the Chinese Communist Party, do not adhere to the same principles. Divesting TikTok from ByteDance ensures the platform can continue operating in the United States free from Beijing’s influence and without impeding on individuals’ rights to express themselves.

        4. Divestment legislation includes carefully structured safeguards

        Divestment legislation could narrowly tailor the president’s authority to block foreign-controlled apps. For example, one proposed bill would allow him to designate a limited number of apps, meeting very specific criteria, for prohibition on app store availability and web hosting services in the United States unless they sever ties to foreign adversary entities. By establishing clear rules and eliminating ambiguity, divestment paves the way for decisive action against potential national security threats, which, according to U.S. intelligence officials, include Beijing’s use of TikTok to meddle in the upcoming U.S. election. Importantly, proposed divestment legislation only targets platforms, like TikTok, controlled by foreign adversaries — including China, Russia, and Iran.

          5. Divestment is a win for TikTok’s investors and a blow to the Chinese Communist Party

          TikTok investors, including American financial services and private equity firms, stand to reap billions if and when TikTok is acquired by a non-Chinese company, funds that could potentially be reinvested in new technology start-ups or other business ventures. Moreover, divestment, rather than an outright ban, ensures the U.S. social media landscape remains highly competitive. With more players in the field, users can expect greater innovation, safer services, and ultimately, a richer and more diverse social media experience — all while blunting Beijing’s ability to leverage TikTok to undercut fair elections and free speech.


            China Cyber Disinformation