The US government has opened an investigation into TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, over the former’s $1 billion acquisition of popular video-streaming app, Musical.ly, back in 2017. According to The Washington Post, the probe would look into how the company could go through with the deal even without a clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
According to sources quoted by the Reuters, “CFIUS is in talks with TikTok about the measures it could take to avoid divesting the Musical.ly assets it acquired”. Further details remain sketchy at this point in time, but both TikTok and the US government have acknowledged the development, although, neither provided any concrete details on the subject.
The investigation will also look into allegations that the company is censoring politically sensitive content in China and mishandling user-data, following repeated calls from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to investigate whether it poses a national security risk. TikTok has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past couple of years, and claims to have over 26.5 million monthly active users in the US, mostly in the 16-24 age group.
In a press statement issued Friday, TikTok said it will work with the US Congress to mitigate any issues they might have with the functioning of the company. According to an official TikTok spokesperson, “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”.
The investigation comes at a time when the short-format video app is fast gaining popularity among users around the world, including in three of the largest, most populous nations – China, India and the US. Over the past couple of years, the Chinese social media app has become remarkably popular among US teenagers even as trade tensions between the two countries continue to remain at an all-time high.