The Biden administration in recent days demanded that Chinese internet giant ByteDance sell TikTok despite the company’s yearslong effort to avoid such a decision, according to a person briefed about the situation. U.S. officials told TikTok to rid itself of Chinese ownership and implied the app could face an outright ban if ByteDance doesn’t comply, this person said. The threat of a ban suggests the company has failed to win over the White House and politicians worried about Chinese government influence over the app.
ByteDance is considering how it could respond to the new demand, this person said, and the Chinese government may prevent the company from selling TikTok. The U.S. decision, earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal, could rekindle interest from Microsoft and other companies that previously tried to buy the app from ByteDance in 2020, when the U.S. government first attempted to force a sale. ByteDance, which owns key consumer apps in China, was valued at more than $200 billion recently in private share sales between investors. While it isn’t clear what TikTok would be worth on its own, the app’s leaders previously expected it to generate around $10 billion in ad revenue for 2022.