TikTok Confirms Offering US Government a ‘Kill Switch’ Amid National Security Concerns


TikTok has revealed that it offered the US government a “kill switch” to address concerns regarding data protection and national security. This disclosure comes as TikTok begins its legal battle against legislation that mandates a ban on the app unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sells it.

The “kill switch” proposal was made in 2022, giving the US government the authority to shut down the platform in the United States at its sole discretion if TikTok failed to adhere to certain rules. This move was aimed at alleviating lawmakers’ fears that TikTok might share US user data with the Chinese government, allegations that both TikTok and ByteDance have consistently denied.

TikTok and ByteDance are urging the courts to overturn the legislation, arguing that it represents a significant departure from the US tradition of supporting an open Internet. They claim it sets a dangerous precedent by allowing political branches to target and potentially force the sale of a disfavored speech platform.

In their legal submission, TikTok stated, “This law is a radical departure from this country’s tradition of championing an open Internet, and sets a dangerous precedent allowing the political branches to target a disfavored speech platform and force it to sell or be shut down.”

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The company also criticized the US government for refusing to engage in serious settlement talks after 2022, using the “kill switch” offer as evidence of their willingness to comply with stringent regulations. TikTok proposed a “National Security Agreement” in August 2022, which included measures such as properly funding its data protection units and ensuring that ByteDance did not access US users’ data. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is scheduled to hear oral arguments on lawsuits filed by TikTok, ByteDance, and TikTok users in September. Legislation signed by President Joe Biden in April gives ByteDance until January next year to divest TikTok’s US assets or face actions as govt found out it to be a big concern if data of 140M+ users from the US are transferred in China.

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