TikTok says it offered the US government a “kill switch” for the platform in 2022 

TikTok has revealed that it proposed giving the US government the authority to shut down the platform in 2022 in an effort to address lawmakers’ concerns about data protection and national security. This comes as TikTok begins its legal battle against a law that will ban the app in the US unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sells it.

The legislation, introduced due to fears that TikTok might share American user data with the Chinese government—a claim both TikTok and ByteDance have consistently denied—is being challenged in court by the companies. 

They are asking the courts to invalidate the law, arguing it represents a drastic shift from the US tradition of supporting an open internet and sets a troubling precedent by targeting a particular platform for political reasons.

In a draft “National Security Agreement” proposed in August 2022, TikTok committed to several rules, including adequately funding its data protection units and ensuring ByteDance had no access to US user data. The “kill switch” would allow the government to shut down TikTok if these rules were breached.

According to a letter reported by the Washington Post, TikTok’s lawyer claims the US government halted substantive negotiations after the new rules were proposed. The letter, dated April 1, 2024, also states that the government ignored requests for further negotiations and did not respond to TikTok’s invitation to inspect its Dedicated Transparency Center in Maryland.

TikTok claims the US government did not engage in meaningful settlement discussions after 2022, despite TikTok’s “kill switch” offer. This mechanism would have granted the US government the “explicit authority to suspend the platform in the United States at its sole discretion” if TikTok failed to comply with certain regulations.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is set to hear arguments in September for lawsuits filed by TikTok, ByteDance, and TikTok users. 

The legislation signed by President Joe Biden in April gives ByteDance until January next year to divest TikTok’s US assets or face a ban. The law stems from concerns that data from the platform’s 170 million US users could be handed over to the Chinese government.

TikTok has called the legislation an “unconstitutional ban” and an affront to the US right to free speech, adding that US data remains within the country and is overseen by Oracle under a deal known as Project Texas. However, there have been some investigations that found that some data was still being shared between TikTok in the US and ByteDance in China.

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