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ByteDance CEO confirms U.S. will force TikTok sale

In a letter to employees, the CEO of TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, appeared to confirm that the company might break off its U.S. operations.

First reported by the Chinese news outlet Pandaily, Zhang’s letter confirmed that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) had decided ByteDance must sell TikTok’s U.S. operations.

“For nearly the past year, we have fully cooperated with CFIUS’ review of our musical.ly acquisition from 2017 [Musical.ly was TikTok’s predecessor],” Zhang wrote in an official English translation of the letter. “Although we have made it clear that we are a private company and that we are willing to take additional technical measures needed to further address any concern, CFIUS determined that ByteDance must fully divest TikTok’s U.S. operations.”

“We disagree with CFIUS’ conclusion because we have always been committed to user safety, platform neutrality, and transparency,” Zhang continued. “However, we understand their decision in the current macro environment. To help resolve these issues, we initiated preliminary discussions with a tech company to help clear the way for us to continue offering the TikTok app in the U.S.”

Zhang said that ByteDance is not giving up on exploring possibilities other than a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations, and will work to make sure that in the end, TikTok can still serve American users, the Chinese outlet PingWest reported.

The committee is a part of the U.S. Treasury Department that looks at any national security issues that might arise from foreign investments coming into U.S. companies. President Donald Trump and members of his administration have spent weeks attacking Tik Tok as a potential national security threat, arguing that the app could potentially send information on users to the Chinese government.

Experts have raised concerns about the amount of data that TikTok collects from its users, as well as the fact that ByteDance is a Chinese company, which raises questions about whether the Chinese government is spying on users. No conclusive evidence that this is happening has been presented, but the Department of Homeland Security and several private U.S. companies have already released guidelines forbidding employees from installing the app on their work phones.

On August 2, Microsoft confirmed rumors that had been swirling for more than a week: That it was looking at buying Tik Tok’s U.S. arm, and that it was working with the U.S. government to do so.

CFIUS has not yet responded to a request for comment. A spokesperson for ByteDance did not confirm or deny the existence of the letter to Digital Trends, and said in a short statement, “TikTok will be here for many years to come.”

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