TikTok’s American leadership is exploring a potential split with Chinese parent company ByteDance as it comes under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators about the company’s links to the Chinese government, according to Bloomberg, though the move remains far from certain and would require Beijing’s approval.
TikTok is in legal limbo with the U.S. as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States conducts a security review, which has reportedly thus far not assuaged regulators’ concerns about ByteDance’s connections with the Chinese Communist Party and the safety of Americans’ data.
A separation from ByteDance could lead to a sale or the company going public via an initial public offering, but Bloomberg reported the move is still seen as a last resort, citing sources with knowledge of talks.
TikTok and ByteDance did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Forbes.
Talks of a TikTok ban over concerns the Chinese government might abuse the app to surveil Americans dates back to the Trump Administration, but they picked up steam last year after reports revealed China accessed private information from U.S. users and planned to use TikTok to spy on certain Americans, including Forbes reporters. A wave of states quickly moved to ban TikTok on government devices, while President Joe Biden signed a bill in December banning TikTok on most federally owned devices. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this month that would let the Department of Commerce ban programs made in countries that pose an “undue or unacceptable risk” to the U.S., including China. Warner claimed the bill wasn’t designed to ban TikTok specifically, but he acknowledged that “everybody is talking about the company,” which he claimed 100 million Americans use for 90 minutes a day on average.
TikTok has launched a $1.5 billion lobbying effort dubbed “Project Texas” in response to regulator concerns, which has included inviting U.S. tech company Oracle to examine its software, according to Bloomberg.