Senator Asks US to Reject Tiktok-Oracle Deal, Saying It Allows for Chinese Regime Control

Senator Asks US to Reject Tiktok-Oracle Deal, Saying It Allows for Chinese Regime Control
The logo of the social network application TikTok (L) and a U.S. flag (R) shown on the screens of two laptops in Beijing, China, on Sept. 14, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)
Eva Fu

The United States should reject a proposed partnership between Oracle and TikTok that would allow for continued Chinese regime control over the app and consequently endanger American national interests, said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

Oracle reached a deal over the weekend with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, in which Oracle would serve as a “trusted technology provider” for the Chinese-owned video-sharing app. The proposal is currently awaiting a review from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency body that screens foreign investment transactions for national security concerns.
In a Sept. 14 letter (pdf) to the committee chair, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Hawley urged the CFIUS to take a more critical look at the “Oracle-ByteDance collaboration” and reject anything short of a clean break with the app’s Chinese ties.

“ByteDance can still pursue a full sale of TikTok, its code, and its algorithm to a U.S. company, so that the app can be rebuilt from the ground up to remove any trace of CCP influence. Or perhaps, given constraints imposed by Chinese law, the only feasible way to maintain Americans’ security is to effectively ban the TikTok app in the United States altogether,” he wrote.

Popular among teenagers, TikTok has faced intense scrutiny for privacy issues and for censoring sensitive user content to toe the Chinese Communist Party’s line.

It remains unclear whether the new deal entails transferring the TikTok’s coveted recommendation algorithms to Oracle—which could be subject to a new Beijing export regulation that requires sales of such technologies to be approved by Chinese authorities.

Regardless, as “ByteDance has no intention whatsoever of relinquishing ultimate control of TikTok,” the proposed partnership “leaves fully intact” the national security threat of the Chinese regime having access to Americans’ data, the senator said.

Chinese intelligence law requires all Chinese companies like ByteDance to cooperate with Beijing’s intelligence efforts and hand over data in accordance with the regime’s will.

With such “repressive” laws still in force, “any corporate shell game that leaves TikTok in the hands of ByteDance will simply perpetuate the original problem,” Hawley said.

“In short, the proposal violates the President’s executive order,” he added.

Microsoft, whose offer ByteDance had turned down, said on Sunday that its solution “would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation.”

CFIUS is set to review the agreement this week and make a recommendation to President Donald Trump, who has the final say over the TikTok deal.