Could TikTok's owner afford to lose its most popular app?

,- In their continuous dispute with ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, US senators are preparing for another crucial vote, maybe this weekend. The approaching decision gives ByteDance a clear choice: sell its US operations or risk being banned.
The motivations for Congressional attempts to cut off links between TikTok and its Beijing-based parent business have been worries about data security and the potential for American data to wind up in China's hands.

Emphasising its global ownership structure—60% of the company is held by foreign investment firms—ByteDance has angrily denied any connection to the Chinese government. But because of its enormous US appeal, the app has become a battlefield in the larger geopolitical disputes between Beijing and Washington.

With almost 170 million Americans spending a significant amount of time on TikTok every day—a large percentage of them are teenagers—the app has become embedded in American society and for many of them, their main news source.

Though ByteDance has made an effort to separate itself from Beijing, questions about the level of Chinese government control over the business and its enormous user data repository continue to be raised in Washington. These worries grew last year when a former ByteDance employee claimed that Chinese authorities had used TikTok user data to monitor pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong.

China's IT industry is being targeted more aggressively by the US government, which has banned imports from Huawei and ZTE among other Chinese companies. Suspicion persists even though TikTok has tried to allay security worries by sending US user data through Texas-based Oracle servers.

Previous legislation passed by the House of Representatives required ByteDance, subject to Senate approval, to sell TikTok's US businesses to non-Chinese owners within six months. This weekend is expected to see the voting on a revised version of the bill that includes aid packages for Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine.

The difficulty in valuing TikTok for a possible sale stems from projections that its US sales in 2023 will reach billions. Still, the possibility of a ban or forced sale clouds the company's future and possible worth.

The sale of TikTok begs the issue of what will happen to its algorithm, which is essential for generating user interaction and content recommendations. Should this exclusive technology not be available, a possible sale may make TikTok less appealing and valuable to potential purchasers.

The decision taken by US legislators about TikTok's future will affect ByteDance's bottom line as well as more general concerns about data security, free speech, and the intricate relationship between technology, geopolitics, and national security.

(Newsline Paper Teams)

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