- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 26, 2020

TikTok poses an “immitigable risk” to national security that necessitates the popular social media application to completely sever ties with its Chinese parent company, the U.S. government argued Friday.

Documents filed in federal court ahead of a hearing taking place Sunday highlight the White House’s case for making TikTok’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance sell the video-sharing app to a U.S. company.

The Department of Justice raised security concerns about TikTok’s current ownership in a court filing entered along with a detailed memorandum about the app outlining the government’s case.

Issued for the Secretary of Commerce, the 25-page memo described a number of significant concerns about TikTok and its ties to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“ByteDance’s submission and compliance with Chinese law has rendered it a reliable, useful and far reaching ear and mouthpiece for the Party and State,” the Commerce Department memo reads in part.

“ByteDance, as a company, and its subsidiaries are subject to PRC national security laws that require or compel the assistance of any Chinese citizen or entity in surveillance and intelligence operations. As ByteDance is subject to PRC jurisdiction, PRC laws can compel cooperation from ByteDance, regardless of whether ByteDance’s subsidiaries are located outside the territory of the PRC,” it continues.

TikTok collects an “extensive amount of sensitive personal data” which in turn can be accessed by China and exploited to conduct espionage on Americans, the memo warns. TikTok said it stores that data in the U.S. but the administration warns it remains at risk.

Messages requesting comment from ByteDance and TikTok were not immediately returned.

President Trump last month announced a ban on transactions with ByteDance and said American companies will be vying to acquire TikTok, which has roughly 30 million users in the U.S., as well as employees.

TikTok in turn sought an injunction effectively barring the Trump administration from following through, and the Justice Department in advance of defending the president’s order in court Sunday.

“Barring a complete divestiture of ByteDate from the TikTok application,” the memo says, “TikTok presents an immitigable risk to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.”

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols is scheduled to hold a hearing on TikTok’s request for an injunction Sunday morning in Washington, D.C.

TikTok is set to be banned from U.S. app stores later Sunday unless the court intervenes. 

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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