(NewsReady.com) – In former President Donald Trump’s final year in office, he issued an executive order to ban TikTok if the company’s Chinese owners didn’t sell it. Months after President Joe Biden took office, he reversed his predecessor’s EO. Now, he is threatening to issue his own ban. But the Department of Justice is reportedly carrying out an investigation into the company.
Forbes reported a source has revealed the DOJ’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section is working with the US for the Eastern District of Virginia to find out whether ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, used the app to spy on American journalists. The company has been subpoenaed to hand over information that will help determine whether its employees accessed the reporters’ location information and other data.
The FBI and DOJ are investigating TikTok and ByteDance’s surveillance of journalists, including me. This comes just after news that the government has ordered ByteDance to sell TikTok, or risk the app being banned. https://t.co/3y9rNeruh9
— Emily Baker-White (@ebakerwhite) March 16, 2023
The allegations against ByteDance were confirmed by Forbes last year. A previous probe by the media organization discovered the company conducted an internal investigation, finding its employees tracked the US journalists who’d reported on TikTok. An internal email showed ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang acknowledged the surveillance tactics and said he was “deeply disappointed” because it undermined public trust.
In another internal email, Erich Andersen, the app’s General Counsel, said some of the company’s employees “misused their authority to obtain access to TikTok user data.”
Spokesperson Jennifer Banks said the company has “strongly condemned” the actions of those involved in the spying campaign. She claimed the people involved aren’t working for ByteDance any longer.
That wasn’t the first time the company has faced accusations of misusing data. Buzzfeed News published a report last year revealing employees in China were accessing Americans’ user data.
In addition to the action taken by the DOJ and US Attorney, the FBI is conducting interviews related to the spying. A TikTok spokesperson told NBC News that changing the ownership would not solve the problem. Instead, they said the company is implementing a third-party monitoring system to prevent it from happening in the future.
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