The government in Washington is threatening Tiktok with a possible ban in the US if the video platform, which is particularly popular with young people, is not split off from its Chinese parent Bytedance. The U.S. government has asked the Chinese owners of Tiktok to sell their shares in the short video app or expect a possible ban in the U.S., the company said on Wednesday. The U.S. presidential office declined to comment.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to appear before the US Congress next week. According to a media report, the company is considering unbundling Bytedance as a last resort to allay US security concerns.

Tiktok rejects accusations from America

Bytedance confirmed that 60 percent of the shares are owned by global investors, 20 percent owned by employees and 20 percent by founders. Because of the proximity of Tiktok and the mother Bytedance to the Chinese government, security authorities fear that the People's Republic taps personal user data or misuses it to manipulate public opinion.

Tiktok and the Chinese government have denied the allegations. "If protecting national security is the goal, divestiture does not solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose new restrictions on data flow or access," a TikTok spokeswoman said. The best way to address national security concerns is through transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems with reliable third-party verification. US authorities and Tiktok have been negotiating data security requirements for more than two years.

It is not clear whether the Chinese government would approve a divestment. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A ban in the USA would be associated with considerable legal hurdles. Former US President Donald Trump's attempt to ban Tiktok during his tenure failed in the US courts.