American investing titans holding significant shares of TikTok parent company ByteDance are remaining silent on the national security concerns posed by the social media app, as well as its ties to China.
Approximately 60% of Beijing-based ByteDance’s shares are held by global investing institutions including American giants BlackRock, General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, according to TikTok CEO Shou Chew’s testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday about the app. Another investment firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) is also a major shareholder, according to The New York Times, while the remainder of the company is owned by company employees as well as ByteDance’s Chinese founders.
None of the aforementioned American companies have publicly addressed the national security concerns, raised by multiple lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, posed by ByteDance since the Biden administration unveiled plans to force the company to sell TikTok or face a ban. Moreover, the companies did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
ByteDance employees in China have accessed TikTok user information to surveil American journalists who were covering the company in 2022, according to Forbes. Chinese law permits the government to collect data from companies based there for national security purposes, according to CNBC; ByteDance could be forced to hand over American data as a result.
In a 2020 legal filing, the Justice Department described founder and former CEO of ByteDance Zhang Yiming as a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while the company maintains a corporate CCP committee. The company has hired three hundred employees with connections to Chinese state media, Forbes reported.
“ByteDance is a privately-held global company,” Chew said in his testimony. “It is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity.”
However, the Chinese government has stated that forcing divestiture would likely lead to legal action. China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday that any sale of TikTok would involve technology transfer problems that would require authorization by the Chinese government, according to The Wall Street Journal. (RELATED: TikTok CEO Dodges On Whether Company Will Cease ‘Spying’ On Americans)
BlackRock declined to respond to Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment, citing a firm policy to “not comment on individual companies.”
General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, and KKR did not respond to Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. ByteDance also did not respond to Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan responded with TikTok’s statement on calls for divestiture: “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”
She also shared a quote from TikTok CEO Shou Chew to the WSJ on Project Texas, TikTok’s plan to ostensibly silo U.S. user data outside of the purview of the CCP.
“The idea behind Project Texas is it won’t matter what the Chinese law or any law says, because we’re taking U.S. user data and we’re putting it out of their reach,” Chew said.
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